Mumbai airport’s main runway that handles over 650 flights daily looked like a busy construction site on Tuesday.
While 73 flights took off and landed smoothly on one half of the 11,000-ft-long runway, 320 workmen and multiple equipment like dumpers, concrete mixers and rollers occupied the other half. Usually, the aircraft movement per hour is 30.
In the six hours from noon to 6 pm, they scraped off the crumbling runway surface of a small patch of the runway and re-laid it with asphalt and concrete.
The exercise will happen every Tuesday for the next 22 weeks, moving patch by patch, throwing flight schedules off gear.
According to the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), the airport operator started the maintenance work 30 minutes behind schedule and resumed full operations 20 minutes late.
“We have asked them to improve their punctuality by next week,” said Nasim Zaidi, director general, DGCA.
The Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson said the runway shutdown begun at 12.06 pm and operation resumed by 6.12 pm. Though the airport’s load has been reduced by 100 flights on Tuesdays, many confused passengers were left stranded.
Sunek Patel (38) was booked in an Indigo flight to Kolkata but after reaching the terminal he was told that flight had been cancelled. “We did not get any information from the airline about the cancellation,” said the Malad-based garment trader.
Travel agents too did not get any information. “We are going by media reports. There is no communication from airlines,” said Anup Kanuga, chairman (western region), Travel Agents Association of India.
Most arriving and departing flights were delayed by 30 to 40 minutes. The main runway is handling an additional burden of 150 departures. The delays had a cascading effect during the evening peak hour. “We reached the peak arrival hour (6 pm to 10 pm) with 40 minute average delay,” said an air traffic control official.