Flight disruptions caused by poor weather or sudden aircraft snags can seldom be avoided. But a large section of domestic flights regularly miss take-off and arrival times — even in good weather — data on delays at the Mumbai airport showed.
In August, 426 flights missed their schedule at least one out of every five times they got airborne, the data said. And, this is not a stray number. Between February and August, every month saw 380 such delays.
For instance, a daily service from Mumbai to Ahmedabad was delayed seven times last month. Its record was worse in July (17 out of 30 times), June (17 out of 29 times), March (7 out of 30) and February (10 out of 29). Such frequent schedule delays was common among all domestic carriers.
“This reflects rampant indiscipline in flight operations. It means airlines have been incapable of streamlining their respective schedules,” said a former head of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), not wishing to be named.
The data, however, is not a revelation. Since April 2011, the Mumbai airport operator has been sending a list of regularly errant flights to the ministry every month. “The ministry had asked us to make a separate list of flights delayed 20% of the time they were operated in a month. The idea was to identify repeat offenders and streamline operations from the root,” said a senior airport official, requesting anonymity.
In fact, the DGCA warned such repeat offenders and said they would have to forgo take-off and landing slots if they did not cut down on delays. “Losing a take-off slot during the peak morning hour could mean losing revenue worth a packed flight,” said a commercial official with an airline, explaining the DGCA’s warning.
The DGCA, however, never went on to penalise any airline. Instead, it allotted them more slots — at least 70 domestic flight slots were added for operation in Mumbai between the 2014 winter schedule (October 29 to March 15) and the same period the next year. This meant more waiting time for passengers flying out of Mumbai. DGCA chief BS Bhullar did not respond to HT’s calls.
Industry experts said ignorance was playing a big role in pushing Mumbai to the bottom of the punctuality table when compared to other privately run metro airports. In July, the Mumbai airport’s on-time performance was 26.17 percentage points below the average OTP of other metro airports. This meant city fliers faced more than double the wait witnessed by travellers at other metros.