To alleviate congestion and improve on-time departures, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has directed Mumbai Airport to reduce the number of scheduled flights and limit the movement of business jets during peak hours, according to a report by the Economic Times (ET). This move is expected to impact around 40 flights and disrupt operations for private jets utilised by some of the country's leading business entities.
Instructions to the airport include decreasing aircraft movement from 46 to 44 during rush hour and from 44 to 42 during non-peak hours. Consequently, airlines like IndiGo and the Air India group, including Vistara, will have to trim their flight schedules.
Curfew on the operation of business jets has also been extended from four hours to eight hours, prompting objections from major corporate groups such as Reliance Industries, JSW, and the Mahindra group.
The new restrictions are reportedly a response to the declining on-time departure figures at the airport due to overscheduling by airlines and a surge in air travel demand. Additionally, the airport's infrastructure limits the number of parking and runway occupancy which has allegedly exacerbated the situation.
Going forward, airports have further been instructed to consider unforeseen circumstances while forecasting peak-hour capacity in the upcoming summer schedule.
The sudden change to the international airport's schedule could disrupt redeployment plans and cause financial losses to airlines, airport, and passengers. The additional restrictions on business jets have raised concerns among industry stakeholders, particularly regarding the functionality of Mumbai as the nation's commercial hub.
Congestion issues at airports have been reported throughout the nation as air travel demand has surged past pre-pandemic levels. Airports have also come under scrutiny after many flights in the northern part of the country faced delays and cancellations due to heavy fog in mid-January. The chaos over last month revealed concerns on airline and airport managements alike, especially after a video showing passengers eating on the tarmac, next to planes at Mumbai Airport, went viral.