Had published this by mistake before I had finished writing it. Apologies. It is done now.

This is a word that has become something I think of every time I take a flight back to Mumbai. Circling over Mumbai for 30-60 minutes has become commonplace thanks to the air traffic congestion — made worse by the crisscrossing runways that were designed, and the inability of the airport managers to add a new runway quickly owing to the land being used by voters. So, it was a pleasant surprise when my 8:30 pm flight from Chennai hovered for only 15 minutes and actually landed on time at 10:15 pm. It must have been a year since I had the pleasure of an on-time arrival in Mumbai. Even the Air France flight from Paris that I had taken a couple weeks ago had to hover for 50 minutes. The longest hovering that I have done over Mumbai was about 80 minutes (from 10:30 pm to 11:50 pm).

I am not sure hovering is the only solution. I can understand there are limitations in the air traffic movements that can be handled. So, why not ask the airlines to take the delay on the ground prior to take-off rather than waste expensive fuel doing it in the air? Of course, the right solution of building additional runways is not something I think we have even begun work on in Mumbai.

2 thoughts on “Hovering

  1. A combination of a few things would do the trick. First, congestion pricing. That means, during heavy demand, the landing/take-off charges are higher. I don’t know if they do that at Mumbai.

    Second, as you suggested, flights should not be cleared for take-off until a landing slot at Mumbai is guaranteed. I have seen it done in the SF/LA sector. Once at SFO, my flight to LA was held up for over an hour at SFO because LA was not accepting the flight. The flight pulled out of the gate, taxied to a parking place and shut down the engines till LA was ready. Makes a lot of sense.

    Third, an incentive mechanism for Mumbai airport to manage their runways better. If the airlines forced to circle overhead get compensation from the airport, the airport has an incentive to reduce congestion.

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