From 5 am on Monday, airlines at the domestic terminal will have to close their check-in counters 40 minutes before their flights’ scheduled departure times instead of the current 30 minutes, the aviation regulator has told them in a circular on Saturday.
In a bid to enforce punctuality, the regulator has also instructed airlines to prepare for take off 15 minutes before their flights’ scheduled departure times and then take off within five minutes thereafter. If they fail to do so, they must cancel the take off and go to the end of the queue of flights waiting to be assigned take-off times, which will mean huge delays for passengers.
“We badly need to implement the circular to streamline air traffic,” said M.G. Jhungare, general manager of air traffic control who will put the rule in practice.
Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines declined to comment on whether they would inform their passengers of the new rule going into effect.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is enforcing its one-year-old rule now because an increasing number of flights have been allowing passengers to board until their scheduled departure times and preparing for taking off only thereafter. This practice delays these flights and holds up others in queue.
When this happens at peak time, the Mumbai airport has 35 to 40 domestic flights waiting to take off in the span of an hour but has the capacity to accommodate just 30, said a senior airport official.
Nasim Zaidi, the regulator's chief, declined to comment on why it had not implemented this rule until now.