At least 100 Delhi flights cancelled every day in week before Republic Day for parade rehearsals
Thousands of fliers into and out of Delhi will be affected with at least 100 flights a day being cancelled for a little over a week between January 18 and Republic Day on January 26.
Starting January 19 every year, airspace over Delhi is closed for 60-90 minutes for rehearsals for the air flypast that is a regular feature of the Republic Day parade. Previously, flights scheduled in this window used to be rescheduled, but this year, thanks to congestion at the Delhi airport, the airport operator says it will be unable to reschedule the flights by providing alternative slots.
According to people familiar with the matter, this year’s notice from the Airport Authority of India to the airlines (the so-called Notice to Airmen) says that the airspace over Delhi will be closed between 10.35 am and 12.15 pm, and between January 18 and January 26.
The airlines and DIAL have agreed to cancel domestic flights scheduled during this period, the people familiar with the matter said. DIAL confirmed the cancellations of the domestic flights. Approximately 15,000 passengers a day are likely to be affected by the shutdown.
On an average, Delhi airport handled 1,350 flights every day in 2017, around 150 more per day than the previous year. Officials say while the number of flight handled by the Delhi airport has been going up by 10-15% every year, and number of passengers by 20%, there has been no commensurate increase in the airspace and terminal capacity.
“Rescheduling flights is not an option anymore because we have no extra slots. If we try to adjust, it will disrupt the entire day’s schedule. So we have decided to cancel the domestic flights that were meant to operate during the shutdown period,” said an airport official on condition of anonymity.
The people familiar with the matter said it is not possible to cancel international flights because they are long-distance and many connect more than one destination, and that these airlines have been asked to either advance or push back their timings to avoid the restricted window. For domestic flights, airlines have been asked to inform the passengers about the changes. “We have also told them to accommodate passengers in other flights scheduled during the day,” the airport official added.
“Keeping in consideration the capacity constraints and to minimize inconvenience to the passengers, Airports Authority of India-Air Navigation Services, several major airlines, and DIAL have consulted on various options and jointly agreed that the best and safest course of action is to cancel domestic flights scheduled during the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) period. International carriers have been requested to reschedule and not cancel their flights,” DIAL said in an email .