Air-traffic congestion and the resulting flight delays that have become a routine at the Delhi airport are a small price to pay for the growth of the aviation sector, according to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.
“There are only about 15-minute delays during the peak hour,” Patel claimed on Saturday, adding, “you cannot have painless growth”. Patel was speaking to HT on the sidelines of a function to lay the foundation stone for a new airport terminal.
However, airport officials who did not wish to be named said the average flight delay was 45 minutes. They blamed the delay on growing traffic and the absence of infrastructure and manpower at the airport to handle such pressure. The airport handles 650 flights a day.
“People are tired of hovering over Delhi and Mumbai airports but that cannot stop the growth of aviation,” Patel said at the function, referring to delays due to pressure on air traffic controllers.
Even as the minister was giving his speech, more than 100 flights were delayed by three to four hours at the IGI Airport, barely a kilometre away, due to dense fog in the morning. There was no flight operation from 8 am to 9.50 am The delays had a cascading effect through the day, mainly because of the lack of a support system to handle the rush, airport officials said.
Patel said steps were being taken “behind the scenes” to develop the infrastructure.
But GM Rao, chairman of the GMR-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which has been assigned the task to modernise the airport, said the traffic had shot beyond his expectation. “We are talking to the government about a possibility to at least transfer the non-commercial flights to the Hindon air-base or Safdarjung Airport,” Rao said.