Air traffic in the city has gone up by at least 60 operations per day since the Yemen airspace had to be closed following the civil war in the country.
According to the city airport’s air traffic control (ATC) department, radar controllers have to monitor additional flights above the Arabian Sea between West Asia and Africa. This has led to extra burden on the officials of the already under-staffed ATC.
The Mumbai ATC handles more than 800 flight movements (take-offs and landings) at the second busiest airport in the country.
“We have deputed additional manpower to cater to the new flights,” said Jayant Dasgupta, general manager, Mumbai ATC. He said majority of these flights pass through the airspace under their jurisdiction during the wee hours.
Before the closure of the Yemen airspace, flights originating from West Asia, particularly big aviation hubs such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, used a straight southbound flight path above Yemen. Now, these flights are forced to take a detour from Muscat and enter the Indian airspace along India’s western coast.
“There is significant traffic between West Asia and the South African eastern coast, particularly to tourists hubs such as Seychelles and Mauritius,” said another senior ATC official requesting anonymity.
Officials said there has been great concern among airlines over flight routes passing above strife-hit countries, since the shocking crash of a Malaysian jet last year. The flight carrying 283 passengers from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was reportedly shot down by a missile fired by a pro-Russian insurgent group.
Soon after the incident, a foreign airline stopped its flight to Mumbai, because the new route lead to excess fuel consumption and the traditional route above Ukraine was ‘unsafe’. “The issue of unsafe flight routes was one of big concerns raised at an international conference of a global airlines’ lobbying group,” said another ATC official.