The election season may mean further delays in flights at the Mumbai airport.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has proposed the closure of runways six minutes before and after a VIP flight takes off or lands. This will have a cascading effect on landings and arrivals of flights, and increase delays by 10 minutes.
Currently, flights are delayed by an average of 30 minutes during peak hours at Mumbai airport — the country’s busiest —said an air traffic control official, on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
“Runway closure for every VIP flight would lead to heavy bunching of flights and delays,” the official said.
He added that VIP flights are not scheduled and hence there is little scope for making arrangements in advance.
The city’s airport handles about four to five VIP flights a day. The figure had shot up to 20 to 22 during the Lok Sabha elections.
With Maharashtra Assembly elections scheduled for October 13, VIP flights are expected to rise to similar numbers over the next two months.
The proposal — mooted by the DGCA last week — was made after a similar suggestion was made by a panel probing the near-collision at Mumbai airport between a helicopter in President Pratibha Patil’s convoy and a Delhi-bound Air India flight carrying 155 passengers in February this year.
“The proposal is awaiting approval,” said Nasim Zaidi, director general, DGCA.
The proposal needs to be cleared by the Airport Authority of India and different airports — both government-run and private — across the country before being implemented.
“This rule is going to create further chaos and heavy delays for scheduled flights,” said air safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.
“Let the flights be slotted as per regular schedule. They can get priority but cannot force the airport to shut down.”