July 12, 2008
Delhi Beats Mumbai to Become Busiest Airport
By Saurabh Sinha
NEW DELHI: The crude oil crisis has made Delhi the country's busiest airport in terms of number of daily flight movements, beating Mumbai for the first time ever.
Before jet fuel price started its upward trend, Mumbai used to handle 750 to 760 flights daily. But now with airlines reducing flights to cut losses, Mumbai - the hub of most domestic carriers - has witnessed the maximum cancellations and now this figure is down to an average of 650.
Delhi, on the other hand, has not witnessed such a dramatic reduction in flights and now its daily movement of over 700 flights (down from 720 to 730 earlier) is higher than Mumbai, making it the airport witnessing maximum number of flights on a daily basis.
Mumbai had historically been the busiest airport in terms of flight and passenger movements. Now it retains
the lead only in terms of number of fliers.
"Delhi has become the busiest airport now. Mumbai has witnessed a sharp fall in number of daily flights but that is yet to decongest the airport as peak hours still remain as choked as they were earlier. Most airlines are cancelling flights in non-peak hours so the issue of bundling still remain and there's a marginal fall in hovering time with this fall in number of flights," said a top ATC official.
With airlines bleeding heavily and looking for elusive investors to pump in some money, the number of flights is likely to fall even further in the ongoing lean season that will last till September. The load factors of many flights has fallen to alarming levels.
For example, Mumbai airport sources said they gathered data for number of flights taking off with less than 50 passengers on board on July 1 and 2. As many as 23 flights on July 1 and 16 on July 2 fell in this category as the number of people on board them ranged between five (crew on ferry flights) to 49.
"Certainly some of these flights were cargo or those going with crew to some other station to operate flights from there. But even some mid-size planes like A-320s or Boeing 737s were that can seat up to 180 passengers were flying with 41 or 32 people on board," said sources.
Load factors like these are now forcing airlines to think in terms of grounding some planes till travel season begins in September. Ironically, the overall fall in aircraft movements is happening at a time when airports like Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and some others are gearing up to handle more traffic. Mumbai was the only place where a new runway could have come up only at the proposed Navi Mumbai airport at least five years later.
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