For the second consecutive day on Friday, thousands of air passengers were delayed for at least an hour because of “unscheduled repair” work on the city airport’s primary runway.
Fliers should gear up for more delays.
The Mumbai airport operator appears to have advanced the date of shutting its main runway where repairs were scheduled to start from November 1.
The air traffic control said that the main runway will be available for flight operations only during the peak hours — 6am to 10am and 8pm to 11pm owing of repairs.
However, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) argued that they are not doing any repairs on the main runway.
Thousands of fliers are paying the price for this confusion. On Friday, passengers across airlines were stuck in airplanes hovering above the airport or waiting in a long departure queue as the main runway was not available for operations for the second consecutive day.
Delhi businessman Neeraj Sharma, who was to catch the 5.30pm GoAir flight to the capital was stuck at the airport for more than five hours.
“We don’t know what time the flight will take off. All passengers, including women and children, have been waiting in the lounge for more than five hours,” Sharma said.
“Now the main runway is open only during peak hours. In addition to that we will open it only during low visibility because the secondary runway does not have ground infrastructure for low visibility operations,” said MG Jhunghare, general manager, ATC.
Airline officials concurred that the main runway was not available for operations from 10am because of repair work on the stretch where the two runways intersect.
The main runway was opened only after 7 pm.
As per a notice to airmen issued on September 23, MIAL shut 425 metres on one end of the main runway for widening of an underground drainage and expansion of some taxiways. This meant that rest of the runway was available for use.
However, airlines claim that they are only allowed to use the secondary runway since the past two days.
“On Friday, the situation was worse than Thursday. Several flights are circling above the airport. Many departures are delayed because the flights missed their scheduled take-off slot because of the congestion on the airfield,” said an operation official with the private airline requesting anonymity.
“The runway is available to the ATC. It is their call whether they want to use it or not,” said a MIAL spokesperson.
Sources said airlines are planning to take up the issue with Alok Sinha, joint secretary with the civil aviation ministry in the next review meeting.
“We are firefighting at all ends. From facing passenger ire, missing departure slots and losing revenue on passenger compensation against delays,” said another airlines official.