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R-Day restrictions: Air travellers brace for delays

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on January 14, 2020 Published on January 14, 2020

Airspace restrictions due to Republic Day celebrations will kick-in in Delhi with no flight operations between 10.15 am and 12.20 pm for around seven days starting January 18   -  PTI

Closure of airspace over Delhi may also have an impact on airfares in some routes

Flyers need to brace themselves for more inconvenience in the coming days. Delhi is going to face airspace restrictions due to Republic Day celebrations with no flight operations between 10.15 am and 12.20 pm for around seven days starting January 18.

Besides cancelling its flights to and from Delhi during this time, IndiGo also told its travel partners: “Other flights operating on the said days might undergo slight changes in schedule due to airspace restrictions.” It also asked them to explore alternative flight options or cancel at nil charge.

SpiceJet took to Twitter to tell its passengers that the airspace over Delhi remaining closed for short periods will “lead to some flights being affected.”

Air India is likely to change the departure times of its flights from Delhi during the restrictions on airspace use while sources in Vistara said that some of its flights have been retimed; a few have been cancelled.

At the same time, the Mumbai and Kochi airports are already seeing rescheduled operations due to ongoing runway work. The Mumbai airport has only been partially available for aircraft operations from November 1 last year. This will continue till March this year. Similarly, in November last year, the Kochi airport announced that as mandatory runway re-carpeting had started “all services are re-scheduled between 6 pm and 10 am till March 28.”

Impact on airfares

Given that Mumbai and Delhi are the two busiest airports in the country, the closure of airspace over Delhi as well is likely to impact airfares. According to ixigo, an AI-driven travel app, there has been a 25-30 per cent month-on-month (m-o-m) increase in average one-way fares on routes like Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Pune, whereas the impact has been less on routes like Delhi-Bangaluru where fares have increased by 9 per cent m-o-m. From Kochi, the fares have seen a 30 per cent y-o-y increase on routes like Kochi-Mumbai and Kochi-Hyderabad.

An industry watcher added that while operations from Kochi were not really affected, there had been some impact on operations out of Mumbai. Analysts also added that since fares were dynamic, if one airline increased fares others would follow.

A cumulative figure of the number of flights that domestic airlines are cancelling or rescheduling was not immediately available. IndiGo alone has 1,500 daily flights.

However, some industry watchers are of the view that the impact of cancellation and rescheduling of flights from Delhi now will be minimal.

According to Indiver Rastogi, President & Group Head - Global Business Travel - Thomas Cook (India) Limited, the air space restrictions in Delhi and Mumbai airport closure will not impact air travellers.

“The NOTAM (Notice to Air Men) restricting the usage of airspace at the Delhi airport for about two hours on the seven days was anticipated, and most corporate travellers are aware of this. We have updated all our customers to enable them to plan their travel around the restricted time frame on the specific dates this month,” he said.

Adds another analyst, “It is unlikely to have a huge impact on regular airline operations or on general aviation (which refers to arrival and departure of private jets). Do remember that India is a very big country,” adding that the runway closure at Mumbai is only likely to affect the On Time Departure of airlines operating from and to that airport.

Published on January 14, 2020
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