Through 2015, the Mumbai airport was the least punctual among four private-run metro airports — Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad being the other three .
The on-time performance (OTP) report showed that on an average, only 74.36% flights every month were on schedule in Mumbai. Hyderabad (84.06%) and Bangalore (82.47%) did better. Even Delhi, which handles about 100 more take-offs and landings a day than Mumbai, recorded an average on-time performance of 81.56%. Mumbai handles an average of 865 flights daily. Barring January (when it was the third best), Mumbai stayed at the bottom of the table for the whole year.
The Mumbai air traffic control (ATC) establishment blamed errant arrivals for the mess.
“Let us assume a Mumbai-bound flight gets delayed in taking off from its airport of origin owing to poor weather; its arrival in the city gets delayed. This leads to bunching in the skies here,” said Jayant Dasgupta, general manager, Mumbai ATC. “We are equipped to handle up to 30 arrivals in an hour. But such unplanned delays result in 35 to 40 incoming flights circling above the airport during peak hours.”
ATC officials are forced to hold flights lined up on the ground for take-off, which eventually has a cascading effect.
“Departures could be held up, but beyond a point, holding up an arriving flight could lead to diversion that means inconvenience to fliers and more fuel burns for the airline,” said Dasgupta.
Industry experts, however, accuse the airport management of biting off more than it can chew. Data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) showed the Mumbai airport added close to a 100 flights in 12 months from October 2014 (see box).
“Most busy airports in the world require parallel runways to achieve smooth operations. The same logic applies to the Mumbai airport. But if they continue to add traffic without augmenting the airfield such problems will continue to stay,” said Sudhakar Reddy, national president of the Air Passengers’ Association of India (APAI), a non-profit body formed by frequent air travellers.
The airport operator blamed the delays on factors beyond its control. “Mumbai airport is a very efficiently run airport. In 2010, the OTP of Mumbai airport stood at 59 with 620-odd flights, and today the OTP stands at 73 with approximately 880 flights,” said a Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson .
The spokesperson, however, expressed concern over the growing passenger traffic. “The work on the Navi Mumbai International Airport should begin soon to divide the increasing traffic.”