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Airport facilities in a tailspin

Everything at Mumbai airport has doubled ? except its infrastructure, writes Chanchal Pal Chauhan. Special: Indian airports' wishlist

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 02:06 IST

Everything at Mumbai airport has doubled — except its infrastructure.

Aircraft movement and passenger traffic have increased two-fold in eight years. Yet, no significant investment has been made in this time, making the airport a passenger’s nightmare.

Capable of handling just over 400 flights, Mumbai airport handles an average of 541 aircraft daily (including 33 private and chartered planes).

In 1997, around 10 lakh passengers passed through, rising to 18 lakh by 2005. Similarly, despite runway constraints, the airport handled 15,735 aircraft movements last year as compared to 8,435 movements in 1997. Cargo handling also registered significant growth with 38, 937 metric tonnes being handled during the same period, up from 20,000 metric tonnes in 1997.

What it means is that anyone using Mumbai airport finds the going increasingly rough.Says Sudhakara Reddy, president, Air Passengers Association of India, “The government has failed to deliver on all counts. Aircraft boarding time has increased four times in five years. It is an hellish experience to get a boarding pass, screen baggage and go through irritating security checks.”

And with six new airlines scheduled to take off this year, more worries lie ahead.

“Not a single aerobridge has been added. There is hardly an effort by authorities to increase passengers’ convenience though revenues have jumped to new highs,” says business traveller Milan R Zatakia.

Adds a senior airport manager, “Despite registering the highest increase in passenger traffic and cargo, which make it the busiest airport in India, the facilities have not been upgraded in the past decade at Mumbai.”

“Infrastructure bottlenecks prevents fast cargo movement leading to imminent delays and losses,” reveals M Ismail of IndEx, an express cargo service provider. To clinch it, an International Air Transport Association (IATA) survey rates Mumbai airport lower than the Asian average. The number of personnel manning the airport has also dwindled to 2,664 from 3,200 since 1997.

R.J. Treasurywala, director, Mumbai airport, says, “We need to add new parking bays and hangars, but scarce land is limiting our growth.”

First Published: Feb 24, 2006 01:07 IST