Air traffic in and out of Mumbai came to a standstill for about an hour on Friday evening owing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the city.
Though VVIP movement often throws traffic at busy metro airports out of gear, the long wait on Friday was abnormal, said airport officials.
According to an official, there was no flight movement (take offs and landings) between 5.30pm and 6.15pm. This led to a massive congestion of planes on the ground and in air.
"I did not get clearance to start the aircraft engine for more than 15 minutes, though boarding was completed on schedule. I was then made to wait at the take-off point for 30 minutes, which angered some passengers," said a senior commander with a private airline.
Air traffic control (ATC) officials said flight movement was halted when the aircraft ferrying the PM was 25 nautical miles away from the city. "The car ferrying him from the tarmac to a convoy of Indian Navy helicopters took a long route, which added to the wait," said an ATC official requesting anonymity.
The choppers left for INS Shikra, an Indian naval air station in Colaba.
A Mumbai International Airport Limited (Mial) spokesperson confirmed the delay. "The average delay for arrivals and departures was about 40 minutes."
The timing of the PM's arrival impacted the airport's flight schedule at its peak arrival period starts at 6pm. "The peak traffic is between 6pm and 10pm. The VVIP arrival put the entire evening schedule off gear," said another ATC official.