On October 21, 2009, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation issued Air Transport Circular 10 of 2009 which outlined a series of steps meant to ease congestion of flights at Indian airport, most particularly Mumbai and Delhi.
One of the steps outlined required for the commander of a domestic flight to call for ATC clearance delivery within 45 minutes to 15 minutes prior to scheduled time of departure (STD) as per the filed and approved flight plan.
Furthermore, the circular requires that the aircraft must contact surface movement control (ground) at least 15 minutes prior to the STD for push-back and engine start-up. To do this the aircraft must have all passengers on board and all pre-start-up check-lists complete.
In a nation where airlines try to achieve a typical flight turn-around of 30 minutes, the 15 minute deadline is all but impractical. The kicker in this circular is that if an airline does not meet the 15 minute deadline, it looses its slot and then must wait for another slot to open which could be 60~90 minutes later.
Given the impracticality of some of the suggestions, the circular was not kept in abeyance to determine feedback from airlines.
Apparently, last week there was a high level meeting at the Ministry of Civil Aviation where the top bureaucrats were present. In the meeting, the congestion at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) came to the fore and bubbled over. The air traffic control was hauled over the coals.
On Monday, July 19, 2010 at 00:00Z (05:30 local) Mumbai ATC put Air Transport Circular 10 of 2009 in to effect, and many flights were delayed.
As a result, Kingfisher has led airlines across India to advanced their check-in counters and boarding gates closure times to 40 minutes and 15 minutes before the scheduled time of departure. These changes are implemented with immediate effect across the six largest airports in India – Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.
While flights were delayed, news reports seem to indicate passengers and airline airport staff continue to treat this issue with laxity. The 15 minute push-back deadline is compounded by the fact that passengers in India expect, once they have checked it, it is the airline’s responsibility to expedite them through security and get them on-board. Airlines are fighting for every last passenger and check-in staff at most airlines just do not want to offend any passenger even it means loosing their overall operational efficiency.
Passengers at New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport will have to be the most alert. The airline is providing them only 25 minutes to get from check-in counter to boarding gate. The minimum walking time from the security check-point to the further gated at the new T3, is 31 minutes, and this is for an able bodied passenger. This is assuming their security stamps are correct. As most passengers in India know, the CISF guards are more concerned with the application of the stamp not its accuracy.
Keeping all this in mind, there seems to be some form of last minute compromise between airlines and the ATC. 15 minutes before the STD, the aircraft calls clearance delivery and keeps the clearance alive for 15 minutes. Within a minimum five minutes before scheduled departure the aircraft must call for push-back, must receive clearance within five minutes, and commence push-back within a maximum of five minutes after receiving clearance.
For now, Bangalore Aviation advises all its readers to report to the airport early.