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With one of the runways at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport shut for maintenance for the next three days, passengers flying in and out of Delhi will have to brace themselves for higher fares, fewer flight options and long delays.
Last week, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) had informed that runway 11/29 will remain closed for maintenance from 0001 hours on November 7 to 0700 hours on November 10 and two other runways -- 10/28 and 09/27 will accommodate its load.
"With fewer flights to and from Delhi, passengers will have fewer travel options to select from. This will also result in increased demand and spur in air fares. There could also be delays during peak hours," COO of Yatra.com Sharat Dhall said.
A cursory examination of airfares on various travel portals reveals that airfares for the next three days for incoming and outgoing flights are 1.5 to 2 times the normal fares.
For example, a Delhi-Mumbai flight usually costs anywhere between Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 for a late booking. This will now cost between Rs 7,300- Rs 8,400. Return flights on this route reflect a similar trend.
Prices show a downward trend from Friday when the runway reopens.
Anticipating delays and cancellations, airlines such as IndiGo are allowing passengers to alter their itinerary free of charge.
"Due to runway closure, all customers have been notified changes well in advance via emails, calls and SMS. We have offered change to next flight and cancellation at no charge," an airline spokesperson said.
A Jet Airways source said the airline has rescheduled its flights and will be offering re-accommodation to passengers.
SpiceJet did not comment on the issue.
Airlines were told three months in advance to revise their schedule and reduce the number of flights due to the maintenance work.
But there are likely to be operational issues causing delays and traffic congestion over IGI, resulting in passengers spending longer time in flight as well as waiting at the airport.
Officials have prepared an alternate standard operating procedure to distribute flights between the two operating runways. According to plan, the shorter runway (09/27) will handle all flights arriving in Delhi and the bigger runway (10/28) will handle those departing from Delhi.
However, a few airlines, including those offering cargo services, may not be able to adhere to this arrangement as they have bigger planes such as Airbus 380, which will not be able to land on the smaller runway, a source explained.
An industry expert questioned as to why the maintenance was being planned during peak tourist season.
"This could have been planned during summers," Subhash Goyal, Chairman of STIC Travel said.