Mumbai Airport will increase its flight cap starting today, allowing 200 daily flights to take place. The doubling of daily flights has long been a request by airlines to boost capacity to India’s financial capital. Once the busiest single-runway airport in the world, Mumbai is now operating at 20% of its total capacity.
Domestic flights resumed in India at the end of May, after a two-month ban due to COVID-19. However, upon restart, Mumbai Airport placed strict caps on daily operations. At first, the cap was set at 50 daily flights, 25 in and 25 out, before being increased to 100 daily flights a few weeks later.
The cap has been a headache for airlines, who have struggled to increase flights in the face of limits at India’s busiest airport. Before the current crisis, Mumbai handled over 300 daily domestic departures, which means the airport is currently at 17% capacity and will reach 33% after the new increase comes into effect.
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Mumbai Airport is usually the second busiest in India and holds the record for the busiest single-runway in the airport. However, capacity restrictions mean both Bangalore and Kolkata have overtaken the airport, a once-unthinkable feat.
Both airlines and the Ministry of Civil Aviation have been pushing for Mumbai to increase its capacity, in a bid to reach 150,000 daily passengers. Starting today, Mumbai will allow 200 daily flights, 100 arrivals and 100 departures, in a considerable boost to airlines.
This increase was only announced yesterday, which means it will be a few days before airlines reach the cap. Mumbai has slowly been bringing its COVID outbreak under control in the last month, allowing some easing of restrictions even as cases surge in other parts of the state.
Despite the government allowing airlines to fly 45% of their schedules, airlines have been seeing low load factors, preventing an increase in flight. However, with Mumbai and Kolkata now allowing more flights, airlines might reach this cap.
Aviation recovery continues, despite risks
In the last three months, India has seen daily passenger numbers steadily grow, and last week crossed 100,000. This growth has come despite the number of daily cases actually increasing to the highest in the world. While this is a positive sign, another surge in cases could hurt this fragile recovery.
Major airports across the country have been lifting restrictions, helping the recovery. Kolkata announced that it will allow flights from six “high-risk” cities, which includes Delhi and Mumbai, on select days. With both Mumbai and Kolkata increasing capacity, we could expect more people in the sky soon.
Have you taken a domestic flight since May? Will airlines bounce back soon? Let us know in the comments below!