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Mumbai: Flight cuts to ease chaos, as fliers fear hike in ticket price

Updated on: 16 February,2024 07:13 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prasun Choudhari |

Consumer bodies call for government to address the issue of increased airline tariffs

Mumbai: Flight cuts to ease chaos, as fliers fear hike in ticket price

Airports Authority of India had instructed MIAL to restrict air traffic movement. File Pic/Sameer Markande

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has intervened to address “persistent congestion” at Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), operated by the Adani Group. In a statement issued on Tuesday night, the ministry highlighted the causes of congestion, including excessive slot distribution with limited time margins, non-adherence to slots by airlines, and non-scheduled operations during peak hours.

Expressing concern over the lack of corrective action by MIAL, the ministry directed the airport operator to ensure all airlines comply with prescribed restrictions. The impact of the ministry's directive was felt immediately, with several airlines announcing flight cancellations starting Wednesday. Consumer bodies have expressed concerns over the potential increase in airline ticket costs due to the reduction in flight operations. They argue that the government's failure to intervene in airline tariffs could disrupt the demand-supply economics, leading to higher prices for consumers.

The Jyotiraditya Scindia-led ministry late on Tuesday night said “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMI) suffers from congestion and excess capacity on its runways which inadvertently leads to air space congestion, where flights are forced to hover over the city for a long duration of around 40-60 minutes. About 40 flights will need to be cut on a daily basis to restore a semblance of punctuality at the choked Mumbai airport.”

Earlier, on January 2, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had instructed MIAL to restrict air traffic movement from 46 to 44 per hour during high-intensity runway operations and from 44 to 42 during non-high-intensity runway operations.

IndiGo, in an official statement, said, “As per directives to ease congestion at Mumbai airport, there have been certain cancellations from February 15 and affected passengers are being informed and provided with options to either avail a full refund, travel to an alternate sector or reschedule their flight.”

Akasa Air has cancelled flights between Mumbai and Bengaluru till March 30 as part of the decongestion effort. “Flight operations of airlines to/from Mumbai are expected to be impacted with guidelines being implemented to reduce runway congestion at CSMI. Considering this impact, we have to rationalise our network resulting in the cancellation of flights QP 1374 (Mumbai to Bengaluru) and QP 1362 (Bengaluru to Mumbai) between February 15 and March 30,” said an Akasa Air spokesperson.

Vistara has decided to cancel eight flights per day between February 19 and February 30, according to sources. However, Air India did not respond to requests for comment on the matter, while an Air India Express spokesperson mentioned that they did not have a significant presence in Mumbai.

Critics argue that the reduction in flight operations could have adverse effects on consumers, particularly in terms of higher ticket prices. They call for the government to address the issue of airline tariffs to ensure that consumers are not burdened with increased costs. Sirish Deshpande of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat while talking to mid-day said, “It is all based on demand and supply economics. The Government should ensure that this doesn’t result in a hike in the fare prices at which tickets will be sold by the airlines. The government has the full right to step in this situation if the prices of fares are increased. If the Government allows the demand-supply economics to operate freely, then the airlines will surely jack up the prices. Even during holidays and vacations, since there is more air traffic, the airlines increase the rates of fares. The government can regulate air traffic congestion but at the same time as a consumer body, we will demand that you regulate the tariff as well. Consumers should not suffer because of poor planning or air traffic management or the airport functioning at such high capacity as Mumbai airport is one of the busiest airports and the Government cannot just look at one side of the story while ignoring the air travellers' issues.”

Jan 2
Day the AAI instructed MIAL to restrict traffic

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