Ticket prices for flights in and out of Mumbai are likely to hit the roof this Diwali because of massive runway maintenance work at the airport.
While fares usually rise during Diwali because of the festival rush, a mammoth reduction in runway capacity and the resulting cut in the number of flights could cause ticket prices to shoot up even further.
According to a notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), repair work would be conducted between 12 noon and 5pm on Mondays and Thursdays.
Not a single flight would take off or land during this period.
The project, which is scheduled to start from mid-October, would take about seven to eight weeks, said airport officials. This period will overlap with the Diwali holidays that are most likely to begin from October 24.
A Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson confirmed that there will be runway repair work in Diwali.
“Both the runways were recarpeted in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. We are using the latest technology for the upcoming project to improve safety,” said the spokesperson.
The country’s busiest airport that handles approximately 850 take-offs and landings in a day will handle 200 fewer operations on the repair days.
“Assuming a flight has 100 seats, the capacity reduction would mean approximately 2,000 fewer passenger seats on a day, which is staggering,” said a senior executive with an aviation think tank requesting anonymity.
Air safety experts however, said that consistent upkeep of airstrips are essential for passengers’ safety.
“Both the runways surfaces at the Mumbai airport are nearing the completion of their life span,” said a former member of an independent air safety panel set up by the civil aviation ministry.