Low-cost air carriers are demanding additional slots from the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), which manages Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The demands come six months after flights to unserved and underserved airports under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) took off from the Mumbai airport. Operating at maximum capacity at present, MIAL officials said it was unlikely to offer additional slots right now. While underserved airports are those which do not have more than a flight a day, unserved airports are those where there are no operations.
Hoping to increase the popularity of their flights to these underserved airports, airlines sought convenient flight timings. At present, Mumbai airport offered eight slots under UDAN to airlines, including TruJet, Air Deccan and SpiceJet. While occupancy on these flights is promising, airlines want to expand their services. Air Deccan, which operates flights to Nashik, Kolhapur and Jalgaon from Mumbai, wants better slots. “We see 70 per cent occupancy on flights that operate from Mumbai to Nashik and almost around 80 per cent occupancy while flying to Kolhapur and Jalgaon. We would like to get additional slots to increase frequency of flights to Jalgaon and Kolhapur,” an Air Deccan official said.
Air Deccan operates one 18-seater ATR flight to connect the RCS routes out of Mumbai. While a Kolhapur-bound flight from Mumbai leaves the airport at 1.15 pm, it reaches Kolhapur at 2.45 pm. It departs from Kolhapur on the same day at 3.05 pm. Air Deccan also wants to increase frequency of Mumbai-Kolhapur flights from three to six days a week.
“We are operating with a single airplane and have accepted the slots given to us by MIAL. Being congested, the airport is unable to provide additional slots at present. As we plan to operate 72-seater planes in future, convenient slots can help us make the flights popular,” the official added.
TruJet, which started the first RCS flight from Mumbai connecting Nanded, also wants to increase flight frequency. “The daily flights between Mumbai and Nanded are seeing close to 95 per cent occupancy. However, we want to increase the frequency from single to two services. We are in talks with MIAL for the same and are hopeful to receive a positive response,” a Trujet official said.
“We operate close to 980 flight movements every day and it exceeds to 988 on a busy day. Expecting Mumbai airport to offer additional slots under UDAN is a thin possibility,” a senior MIAL official said. At the Center for Asian Pacific Airlines (CAPA) summit in February 2018, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha had said that capacity expansion at Mumbai airport amid a tremendous demand for aviation in the country will remain a challenge. Senior government officials said that routes connecting Mumbai to Darbhanga in Bihar, Kannur in Kerala and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh are included in the second phase of UDAN. However, the ministry is planning to rework these routes as Mumbai airport may not be able to handle more flights under UDAN.
Once the Navi Mumbai airport becomes operational, officials are keen to shift RCS operations to the other airport. The Navi Mumbai International Airport is expected to see the first flight by end of 2019.