Ministry of Civil Aviation

 Steps Taken by Government of India to handle Air Space Congestion at Mumbai Airport

AAI issued directives to airport operator to restrict air traffic movements during HIRO period from 46 to 44 per hour and in non-HIRO period from 44 to 42

General aviation aircraft operations during HIRO period also restricted

Posted On: 14 FEB 2024 1:25PM by PIB Delhi

With uplifting of travel restrictions post pandemic, airports have witnessed a considerable increase in air traffic and air space congestion. Mumbai Airport, being one of the busiest airports in the country, suffers from congestion and excess capacity on its runways, which inadvertently leads to air space congestion, whereby flights are forced to hover over the city for a long duration of around 40-60 minutes.

Considering that an aircraft on an average consumes 2000kg of fuel per hour, such long duration circling time, causes significant wastage of fuel for the aircrafts ranging from 1.7 kilolitres of jet fuel (approx. costing around Rs 1.8 Lakh) for a 40 minutes circling time in air to around 2.5 Kilolitres of jet fuel (approx. costing around Rs. 2.6 lakhs) for a 60 minute circling time. It is to be understood that such increase in fuel cost would eventually be borne by the consumers. This also has a cascading effect on the efficiency of airports operations leading to a longer wait time, inordinate delays, affecting both passengers and airlines adversely.

In order to remedy such air space congestion, an analysis was conducted by Airport Authority of India, which found that air traffic permitted per hour during the 6 hours of High Intensity Runway Operations (HIRO i.e. from 0800 hrs. to 1100 hrs. & 1700 to 2000 hrs) was almost equivalent to air traffic permitted per hour during the remaining 18 hours of the day. In addition to the above slots, General Aviation & Military Aircraft operations were also allowed without any restrictions. Besides, owing to presence of transverse runways, operation of non-scheduled flights further increases air traffic congestion during peak hours.

While Mumbai Airport is running at its full capacity, it was found that the persistent congestion was caused due to (i) excessive slot distribution with limited time margins on behalf of the airport operator, (ii) non-adherence of the slots on behalf of the airlines, and (iii) non-scheduled operations during peak hours. The Airport Operator being the slot provider as well as the manager of slots to the airlines should have proactively taken steps to streamline and regulate the air traffic movements, to resolve this problem.

However since, no such action was initiated by them, Ministry of Civil Aviation has had to step in. Airport Authority of India, being the Air Navigation Service Provider, issued directives to the airport operator in the form of Notice to Air Men (NOTAMs) on January 2, 2024, which restricted the air traffic movements (ATM) during HIRO (i.e. from 0800 hrs- 1100 hrs., 1700 - 2000 hrs & 2115hrs -2315 hrs) period from 46 to 44 per hour and in non-HIRO period from 44 to 42 period. Further General aviation aircraft operations during HIRO period have also been restricted. It is expected that MIAL should take immediate action to ensure that all airlines are on board with the prescribed restrictions. This action has been taken in larger public interest from perspective of airspace safety, efficiency of operations and passenger satisfaction.

The Government of India realizes that it needs to step in to strike a balance between the needs of both the airport operators and airlines while ensuring that passengers have a fulfilling experience while flying from Mumbai Airport.



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