With the aviation regulator punishing errant flights for missing their take-off slots since July last year, the number of city-bound fliers forced to land at neighbouring airports owing to congestion in the Mumbai skies has halved as compared to last year.
The airport witnessed only 13 flight diversions between January and June this year, a marked improvement from 26 diversions during the same period last year.
In July 2010, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) began putting those flights, whose crew was not ready for take-off 15 minutes before its scheduled departure time, last in the departure queue .
“The rule has helped in better slot management. Earlier flights were not maintaining their (take-off and landing) slots,” said a spokesperson from Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL). “Some flights arrived before schedule leading to congestion. When congestion reached its peak, many flights were diverted as they ran short of fuel to hover in the air.”
The city’s air traffic control (ATC) office also shuffled the distribution of its manpower to cut down diversions. “We rearranged the staff looking at arrivals and departures to enhance tracking of flight movement. This helped improve efficiency,” said an ATC official requesting anonymity.
Flight diversions are usually high during monsoon owing to a drop in visibility. Earlier this month, even though the flight operations were suspended twice for about 15 minutes due to drop in the runway visibility, not a single flight was diverted. “As most flights stick to their respective slots, they can afford to circle above the airport during a temporary closure,” he added.