• Despite 3-runways IGI has fewer flights than Heathrow, Dubai

    Indira Gandhi International Airport has three runways, but trails those abroad with as many or fewer landing strips in hourly flight handling capacity .It isn’t surprising then that the airport catering to India’s capital is currently unable to meet the airlines’ growing demand for slots to operate additional flights, thus restricting the flyers’ options. Delhi International Airport Pvt Ltd, which runs the airport, has informed airlines that it cannot add a single flight between 7am and 10pm this summer. IndiGo alone was denied permission for 30 flights it planned for the summer season.

    IGIA has been shown up as a laggard in a comparison made by NATS, the UK-based air traffic control services provider which was hired by DIAL to suggest means of augmenting aircraft movement on its three runways. The NATS report accessed by TOI shows two-runway airports like Hong Kong, Dubai International and London’s Heathrow and three-runway airports like Istanbul and Beijing have much higher hourly aircraft movement.

    Given that the runways at Heathrow and Dubai are so close to each other as to preclude simultaneous use, IGIA ‘s lower capacity is significant because two of its runways are distant enough as to allow their use at the same time. IGIA ‘s runways currently handle 62 schedule and five non-schedule (VIP , defence or charter) flights every hour. On paper, the maximum hourly capacity of IGIA ‘s three runways is 75 aircraft (70 schedule and five non-schedule). It also handles just 45 flights an hour between 11pm and 6am due to special usage procedures meant to cut down on nighttime noise from planes.

    Delhi, however, has reasons for its sub-par performance, unlike Mumbai, which has become the world’s busiest single-runway airport. As an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official explained, “ A significant part of Delhi is a no-fly zone (the entire aerial portion from AIIMS to the VVIP enclave comprising Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House and the prime minister’s residence). There is also the restricted airspace reserved for the Hindon air base in the neighbourhood.“ As a result, planes cannot approach IGIA in a circular manner, only through a narrow corridor, irrespective of which direction they are flying in from. The official added, “The constant VVIP flights al so hamper regular flights.“

    AAI disclosed that NATS, after an earlier study , had suggested enhancement of ground infrastructure such as rapid exits and aprons to reduce the time taken to vacate the runway . However, such infrastructure has not been planned at IGIA. DIAL did not offer a comment for this story .

    In any case, as the AAI official pointed out, it would be useless to squeeze extra flights into the schedule in the absence of the capacity at the terminals to manage the additional passengers and baggage. “In fact, this is the reason why no low-cost carrier has agreed to shift from Terminal 1 to T2 when such a move led to no extra slots,“ the official added.

    Union aviation minister Jayant Sinha is meeting stakeholders at IGIA to discuss NATS’ roadmap for a phased increase of hourly flight capacity. AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra too will meet the involved parties to see if the targets set for short and medium term are being met. “Some additional infrastructure is required and we are working on that,“ said Mohapatra.  T. J. Logan Womens Jersey

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