Why ‘on time’ flights are not good for all

NEW DELHI: India’s three busiest airports — Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru — are notorious for flight delays. While a crippling infra crunch at these hubs is responsible for you not taking off or landing here on time on most occasions, a study by air traffic control (ATC) has found airlines’ scramble for better on time performance (OTP) record by questionable means is adding to the problem of delays.

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ATC carried a study at these three airports last year between September 24 and November 30, focusing on whether flights headed to these places as per the schedule from their origin airports, and what percentage of flights actually reach these airports at their slotted hour.

The study, covering 46,378 flights and accessed by TOI, found 2,569 flights or 5.5% left before their schedule departure time from over 60 origin airports for these three choked hubs. As many as 11,249, or almost a quarter, reached these three airports more than 15 minutes before their schedule departure time.

This meant these flights reached the choked Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru airports at a slot which was not theirs, thereby affecting the flight which was supposed to be there at that hour. Consequentially, the flight supposed to be there at that time needed to either hover in air to land or wait on ground till a gate at the terminal is free to receive it.

“The reasons for the findings are: Airlines planning early departures; early pushback/departures and incorrect block time from gate to gate. (Block time is the time when an aircraft starts taxiing from the origin airport for take-off and then comes to a stop at its parking bay at destination airport),” said a senior official.

Airlines do this to show better OTP to attract passengers. Following the study, a the official said: “It has been decided to ensure airlines operate as per schedule. Flights will not be allowed to take off for choked airports before schedule time except when necessary. Airports Authority of India (AAI, parent organisation for ATC) will conduct a year-long study to find correct block times so that DGCA can catch airlines when they file inflated block times.”

Delhi and Mumbai handle almost 60% of India’s total aviation traffic. Once a flight gets delayed here, then all the other sectors it has to do that day face consequential delays. “While infra addition will take time, we will take interim measures to reduce delays and add flights in the meanwhile by taking these steps,” said the official.
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