Mumbai airport becomes world’s busiest single-runway airport

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International airport sets record with 980 flights in 24 hours

February 04, 2018 10:51 pm | Updated February 05, 2018 07:27 am IST - MUMBAI

New record:  45.2 million people flew in and out of Mumbai during fiscal 2017 as against 44 million at Gatwick.

New record: 45.2 million people flew in and out of Mumbai during fiscal 2017 as against 44 million at Gatwick.

On January 20, Mumbai airport created a new world record for single-runway operations by handling 980 arrivals and take-offs in 24 hours, or almost one flight every minute!

With this, the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International airport bettered its own feat of 974 flights in 24 hours, recorded on December 6, 2017.

Space crunch

While Gatwick, the U.K.’s second largest airport, remains the most efficient single-runway airport in the world, Mumbai, despite battling a severe space crunch, is now headed to achieving the four digit mark in flight operations in a 24-hour window.

Officials said any increase in the number of flight movements using a single runway will be a major achievement for the airport operator, Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL), and the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

A senior MIAL official, speaking on the sidelines of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) conference in Mumbai last month, said, “We are constantly aiming to better the record, while keeping the constrains in mind.”

Sydney-based CAPA in its 2017 annual report had said Mumbai airport, which has reached 94% of its maximum passenger handling capacity, will reach saturation point in 2018. “The airport currently handles 45.2 million passengers and sees around 930 flight operations per day, and will handle 48 million passengers in 2018. Reaching its saturation would mean that it will increase additional daily flights by 48 this year,” the report said.

In terms of passengers again, Mumbai pips Gatwick with 45.2 million people flying in and out in fiscal 2017 as against 44 million at Gatwick. “No other large city in the world is served by one airport, that too with a single runway,” Rajiv Saxena, general manager, Air Traffic Control, Mumbai said.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha said, “Mumbai remains the most bottle-necked single runway airport due to which aviation growth is a concern. There is no quick way to add capacity until the Navi Mumbai airport comes up. Every element in the system is being worked upon. One of the most important challenges is airspace, and we are working closely with the air force to manage air traffic. Major research in air navigation systems is also under way.”

According the U.K.’s Airport Coordination Ltd, Gatwick’s single runway declared an aircraft handling capacity of 870 flight movements per day for summer 2017.

But, unlike the Mumbai airport, which is functional 24 hours a day, Gatwick handles most of its flights between 5 a.m. and midnight because of a night curfew in force since 1971.

In terms of numbers, Gatwick’s single-runway’s peak handling capacity is 55 air traffic movements an hour, while Mumbai is inching closer with 52 movements an hour.

Unlike Mumbai, which rarely handles 52 movements an hour, Gatwick frequently handles 55 movements an hour daily during the peak hours between 6 a.m. and 7.50 am, 10 am and 1.50 p.m. and from 3p.m. to 7.50 pm. Mumbai, on the other hand, handles an average of around 48 movements during peak hours.

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