NEW DELHI: Delhi airport has told airlines that it will be closed for an hour and 45 minutes daily between January 18 and 26 and that flights during the period — 10:30 am to 12:15 pm — will have to be cancelled. It’s estimated this will mean the cancellation of more than 100 domestic flights a day during the Republic Day airspace closure period, which has also been expanded to nine days, from six, this year.
The instruction was contained in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued on Thursday. This is the first time the airport has told domestic airlines to cancel flights during the R-Day closure period. They were allowed to reschedule flights until last year. International carriers can still reschedule flights during the period. Domestic airlines said this would make them the target of passenger anger, given the short notice.
“Cancellations of flights so close to the date of departure creates a lot of problems for us, as we will now have to face passengers’ ire when it is not due to the airline’s fault,” said a senior executive who did not want to be named. “Based on the norm till last year, airlines only had to retime their flights, which was manageable, as passengers could fly.”
He said the duration of the closure has been increased to nine days from six this year. Delhi airport has incidentally been hit by fog-related delays in the past week or so.
NOTAMs are issued by the airport and air traffic control based on directives from government departments and other stakeholders. Republic Day guests this year include the leaders of Asean countries and not just the head of state or government of one nation.
Airspace closures take place every year in the run-up to Republic Day for rehearsals by the Indian Air Force as well as VVIP arrivals and departures. Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which operates Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), said it has sought to minimise inconvenience to passengers.
“IGIA in consultation with Airports Authority of India (AAI) and NATS (National Air Traffic Services) has implemented a profile schedule which has enhanced the overall capacity by almost 13% in comparison with last year,” DIAL said. “However, keeping in consideration capacity constraints and to minimise inconvenience to the passengers, Airports Authority of India-Air Navigation Services, several major airlines and DIAL have consulted on various options and jointly agreed that the best and safest course of action is to cancel domestic flights scheduled during the NOTAM period.” It added that the cancellation is only for Indian airlines and international carriers have been asked to reschedule and not cancel their flights.