Mumbai Airport runway shut for 3 months

From today, surface repair work will begin on the main runway at Mumbai International Airport, taking place daily between 9am and 5pm, for the next 3 months.

The 3,400 metre stretch of tarmac handles around 800 aircraft movements each day, making Mumbai the second busiest airport in India. This means that significant disruption is likely as the airport will go from having two operational runways to just one. The last time the runway was repaired was only a few months ago in October 2016 – on that occasion it was out of action for 40 days and caused 2,100 flight cancellations.

Mumbai Airport does have another runway from which it can operate services, however, it is smaller and is not able to handle the same frequency of air traffic as the main airstrip. Also, larger jumbo aircraft are too wide to safely land on the secondary runway, which will likely cause disruption to several services.

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Although airport officials have tried their best to schedule the work for a quieter period of the year, the 3-month duration of the project does see it overrun into the start of peak summer holiday season. The majority of schools in India finish for the summer in the second week of April, so many families will have their holidays affected. Most will have booked package deals, so delays could prove costly if connecting flights, transfers, hotel bookings and other arrangements are messed up at as result.

Long delays at the airport aren’t the only issue though; due to a significant reduction in the amount of flights departing the airport, seat availability is likely to be hit hard. By cutting air traffic by around 80 flights a day, the runway closure could lead to the loss of 15,000 seats daily. The seat shortage is likely to cause fares to increase significantly, particularly for those booking just before the departure date. Even so, airline revenue will still be impacted as it is unlikely that any fare increases will offset the considerable drop in passenger capacity.

Mumbai Airport already has a very poor flight punctuality rate – 45% of flights in December were behind schedule. Unlike Delhi Airport, it doesn’t have enough surrounding land on which to build additional airstrips, meaning that runway closures are likely to become a regular occurrence.