Airlines are up in arms against the Mumbai airport operator because marathon construction activity at the airfield is delaying flights and thus spoiling their on-time performance record.
The issue was raised at the Airport Operators’ Co-ordination Committee (AOCC) meeting last week. “This is the second time we have raised the issue in the past few months,” said an Air India spokesperson.
The national carrier that caters to about 16 per cent of the domestic fliers in the country is among the worst affected because it operates the maximum flights out of the city.
“We have about 12 operations out of Mumbai during peak hours. Congestion caused by the construction activity has a cascading effect on flights throughout the day,” added the spokesperson. Last week, a Chennai-bound Air India flight was stuck on the airfield for about an hour after boarding.
Domestic carriers have also raised the matter with the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), a body formed by domestic carriers. “It is a big challenge. Airlines are contemplating claiming damage from the airport operator,” said Anil Baijal, secretary general, FIA.
The airport operator however, denied the allegation. “Airside work is carried out after informing airlines in advance. But the issues were not raised in the last AOCC meeting,” said a spokesperson.
Many crucial parts of the airfield have been under construction for the past few months. Airport sources told HT that a taxiway called ‘November 8’, most commonly used by pilots to vacate the runway, was shut due to construction work for more than a month. Similarly, taxiway ‘Echo’, another crucial taxiway, was not available for about 15 days. The main runway is shut for two hours twice a week for routine maintenance.
Underground cables dug up by construction workers have also led to serious glitches such as power failure.