October 1, 2008

City Airport Still Country’s Busiest

By Manju V

MUMBAI: Just when one thought that the Delhi airport had flown ahead of Mumbai to snatch the numero uno position as the busiest airport in India, comes the clincher. The tell-all statistics on air traffic, passenger traffic and cargo handling collected over the last five months clearly show that the commercial capital still enjoys the top slot among country's airports.

While the rising aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices did have an adverse impact on the city airport's domestic traffic, it was the increasing international flights which saved it from being relegated to the number two position. "Mumbai is definitely more prominent than Delhi as an international destination," says a Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd spokesperson.

Last month, media reports had indicated that flight cuts to Mumbai airport had placed Delhi ahead of it when it came to air and passenger traffic. It said in the period between April to July 2008, Mumbai recorded an average of 650 flight movements a day, while Delhi had 680. It was a mighty fall for Mumbai airport, as in the same period last year, it had handled 720 flight movements per day.

So when did the city airport actually recover? "In fact, Mumbai had not really lost its position to Delhi in the real sense. The figures on flight movements quoted in reports was just the daily average. The real picture came in the final calculations," the official said. For instance, total flight movements in April was 20,105 for Mumbai and 18,864 for Delhi.

But the ATF price hike did affect Mumbai airport the most as domestic passenger traffic handled this year was less than what was handled last year. According to MIAL data, the year-on-year figures for the period between April-August show a 4.5 % reduction in domestic passenger traffic for Mumbai airport with only a 2.6 % drop for Delhi.

"Domestic passenger traffic has been a strong driver of growth in the country's airline industry for the last five years. We saw a change in that trend this year, as for the first time domestic traffic fell. The next round of growth will be in international passenger traffic as foreign airlines add more flights and some domestic airlines will go international in the coming months," said a top airline official.

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