Business jet operators are up in arms against a recent move to extend the curfew on their movement at Mumbai airport. This, they fear, will choke the growth of air charter business, which saw a strong uptick in 2023. Mumbai airport is the second busiest in the country with 950-plus daily flights. But a single operating runway system at Mumbai has led to constraints — slot availability is limited.

While there has been a four-hour daily restriction on business jet movements at Mumbai for several years, it has now been extended to eight hours, air charter operators complain.

“These additional limitations are particularly concerning as corporate leaders in the city, who rely on general aviation/business aviation for their travel needs, already contend with a very limited percentage of the total available slots at Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), each day. The new restrictions will significantly hamper business aviation operations, affecting the functionality of Mumbai as the commercial hub of the nation,” Business Aircraft Operators’ Association’s Managing Director Rajesh Bali wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia in January.

BAOA has asked for an immediate review of this new restrictions to ensure a fair allocation of operational slots for business jet operators at least till the Navi Mumbai airport becomes operational. Earlier, private or non-scheduled category aircraft, were restricted from operating from/to Mumbai from 8-10 in morning and 5.30-7.30 in the evening. Now, these aircraft are restricted from 8-11 in morning, 5-8 in evening, and 9.15-11.15 in the night.

“How are we supposed to plan our operations with this enhanced restrictions,” asked a head of a charter company. “Even in other hours when charter movements are allowed, only two slots are being allotted per hour. Often parking is not available for more than 3-4 hours at airport.,” he added.

Industry executives feel that the added curbs on private aircraft is a knee jerk step to reduce overall flight delays at Mumbai. “The number of scheduled and non-scheduled flights has increased, and that has led to increase in aircraft holding. Flights are getting diverted, too,” an Airport Authority of India official explained. While the notice to all operators is issued by AAI, this is done with concurrence with the airport.

“The calendar year of 2023 saw the resurgence of commercial air traffic where Mumbai Airport achieved record passenger movements  It became imperative for us to take measures to support the growth, provide passengers with a seamless experience and maintain a higher on-time performance,” said MIAL.

“To achieve this, the notices for general aviation that were temporarily relaxed during the Covid period when commercial traffic was low were reinstated and enforced as also advised by subject matter experts, owing to the growth in traffic,” it added.

flights handled

In 2023, Delhi airport handled 12,706 charter flight movements, which is the highest in the last five years. Charter movement in Delhi grew by 4 per cent on year-on-year basis in 2023. “Business jet charter utilisation increased 12 per cent in 2023, compared to 2022. Charter jet fleet in India increased from 58 jets in 2022 to 65 jets in 2023. Events like World Cup, IPL, high-profile weddings and Vibrant Gujrat has been driving the demand for aircraft charter. This year with elections coming up the demand for business jets and helicopters will remain strong,” said Atiesh Mishra, Director, AJM Jet Management Pvt Ltd.