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Erratic weather, runway work delaying flights

Frequent flier Sapan Dalvi has asked his travel agent to book him on flights that will ferry him to his destination at least two hours before a scheduled meeting.

mumbai Updated: Nov 19, 2010 01:17 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Frequent flier Sapan Dalvi has asked his travel agent to book him on flights that will ferry him to his destination at least two hours before a scheduled meeting. The information technology professional, who travels thrice a week, has missed a few meetings in the past two weeks since repairs began on Mumbai airport's main runway.

Since November 1, the main runway has been shut from 9 am to 5 pm daily, except on Sundays, for repairs. The project is scheduled to complete by July 1, 2011.

"It's the best I can do [to make sure I get to my meetings on time]," said Dalvi, a Powai resident. Barring three days - November 5 to November 7 - when runway repairs were on hold owing to US President Barack Obama's visit, flights at the airport have witnessed an average delay of 40 minutes in the mornings.

According to a Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) spokesperson, tailwinds (winds blowing towards the course of the aircraft), operational glitches such as aircraft stuck on the runway and routine traffic congestion were causing the delays.

The morning backlog makes schedules vulnerable by evening when the airport gears up to handle peak-hour incoming traffic. "Even if two incoming flights are delayed, the entire schedule goes haywire," said an airport official requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.

On November 11, two GoAir and at least six Jet Airways flights were delayed by two hours on average. At around 7.30 pm, display screens at the domestic terminals said all flights had been rescheduled. Erratic weather patterns added to the chaos on certain days.

Receding monsoon showers earlier this week also forced the Air Traffic Control to switch runways, forcing a long queue of aircraft to taxi for 20 to 30 minutes and realign for take-off. Passengers have also alleged ill treatment by airline staff in the past week. There have been cases of passengers abandoned on the tarmac, made to sit inside an aircraft for hours and abusive spats with airline crew.