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The queue-rious case of Delhi airport

Domestic flights landing at Delhi airport have to taxi for about 45 minutes to reach the domestic terminal area. It takes less time to fly down from Delhi to Jaipur.

delhi Updated: May 09, 2010 22:58 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Domestic flights landing at Delhi airport have to taxi for about 45 minutes to reach the domestic terminal area. It takes less time to fly down from Delhi to Jaipur.

Last year Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) became the country's busiest, overtaking Mumbai. The airport handles 700-720 flights a day, which means aircraft have to hover above IGIA during peak hours, waiting in queue to land.

The airport got a third runway in September 2008, to help ease congestion, but it created a new problem. The runway is located at a considerable distance from the domestic terminals and domestic flights landing at Runway 29 have to taxi 9 kms — the distance between AIIMS flyover and Nizamuddin Bridge — to reach their bays.

“After my flight landed at the airport, it spent more than half an hour in just taxiing,” said S.K. Tanwar, a government official. “While the airport has improved in other aspects, this is a new problem.”

The closure of IGIA's main runway 28 for repairs, which is closer to domestic terminals, has sealed the option of it being used for some landings. It is expected to open by September this year.

“Even before flights land at the airport, pilots make announcements asking passengers to brace for a long taxiing time,” said Sandeep Kumar, a Noida resident and a frequent flier.

Peak hour madness

There are 680 scheduled flight movements at IGIA per day, apart from unscheduled chartered and VIP flights.

“Our workload has increased but we are trying to minimize delays as much as possible,” said a senior air traffic control official on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorized to talk to media.

“The problem is not the large number of flights but the way they are slotted. There is bunching of flights during peak hours and flights get lined up in a sequence,” he said.

“Air traffic congestion starts at 6 am and continues till 9 am and most flights get delayed by 15 to 30 minutes routinely,” said a senior official of a full-cost carrier. “We see similar problems from 5 pm to 7 pm.”

Need for Better facilities

The Airports Authority of India (AAI), which handles air traffic at IGIA, has requested the private airport operator Delhi International Airport Ltd. (DIAL) to construct more taxiways along the new runway. This will help aircraft quickly vacate the runway after landing, making way for the next plane in line to land.

Creating parking bays near the new runway for domestic flights can solve the problem. And once the new integrated Terminal 3 starts working in July, aircraft wouldn't have to taxi a long distance as it will be located between the two main runways.