Fewer fliers, more trips at Mumbai’s Juhu airport from April to September
The Juhu airport got 84,488 fliers between April and September, a drop compared to the 86,420 passengers in the corresponding period last year, according to data from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The flight movements or trips by helicopters and other chartered planes, however, climbed to 11,466 from 11,320 in 2016 during the five-month period.
Juhu airport director Dr MK Bimal was not available for comment.
Captain Uday Gelli, president (western region), Rotary Wing Society of India, a not-for-profit, said, “With frequent elections, VIPs and VVIPs often use helicopter and chartered aircraft for rallies. They are, however, not fully occupied, which could possibly be the reason for the drop in number of fliers. A drastic decline in joyrides on helicopters, too, is to blame.”
A senior official from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which uses the airport to service its offshore oil fields in the Bombay High basin off the Mumbai coast, said, “Complete offshore operations were shut for a few days in the monsoon owing to unfavourable climatic conditions. A dip in oil prices and the resultant cost-cutting, too, has hit the number of trips in a minor way.”
In 2016, the Centre added the Juhu airport to their regional connectivity scheme (RCS), Udey Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), to connect to 28 places in Maharashtra. Even though there are plans to use Juhu under the RCS scheme, the airport is yet to be equipped with night landing facility. The AAI said the work on the facility is in process.
There is a proposal to extend the airport’s main runway, so it can handle larger aircraft, but the plan has been stalled because of land constraints. Another plan to extend the runway into the sea has been discussed, but there has been no development.
Mumbai airport currently handles 45.2million passengers annually and is estimated to reach its saturation point early in 2018, with a passenger handling capacity of 48 million. The Juhu airport was to reduce traffic at Mumbai airport once the runway was extended. Senior officials now hope the Navi Mumbai airport will help reduce the decongestion.
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