Thousands of fliers spent hours crammed inside their planes at Mumbai airport before finally taking off on Monday.
This is because the air traffic control (ATC) sent 60 flights to the back of the take-off queue because they were not ready to take off 15 minutes before their scheduled departure time.
The ATC was following a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) circular, intended to reduce delays and discipline airlines, which came into effect on Monday at 5 am.
“Earlier if a flight was delayed we were made to sit at the airport. But now we are stuck inside a congested aircraft. What sort of a rule is this that inconveniences the consumer?” asked Ravi Parwani, a businessman stuck on a Delhi-bound flight for an hour.
Even before the rule came into force, the same number of flights were delayed by at least 30 minutes each because airlines would club flights that were not fully occupied, said two independent sources. They added that the air traffic control does not have enough staff to handle the load and nor does the airport have enough taxiways and parallel runways. But now, for the first time, the DGCA is holding airlines responsible for the delays.
“Today, flights that respected the rule departed without any delay,” said M.G. Jhunghare, general manager, air traffic control (western region). “Most flights that were refused take off were between 5.15 am and 6. Once airlines realised that we were strictly implementing the rule, things fell into place.”
Kingfisher, Indigo, GoAir and Air India declined to say how they plan to prevent a repeat of Monday. Jet Airways said it was working out ways to ease things. Sources in two airlines said they might protest on Tuesday.