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Hovering in air? Wrong block time by airlines to blame too

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NEW DELHI: Frequent flyers in India have a pet peeve — approaching their destination, especially if it happens to be a busy metro like Delhi or Mumbai, in time and then being told by the pilot about “ATC delays” due to which their landing will be way beyond schedule.

The aviation ministry recently probed this issue and found that the alleged air traffic control (ATC) delays are mostly a diversion from the larger issue of airlines giving wrong “block time” — total time a flight takes from pushing back from departure gate to arriving at the destination gate.

Aviation secretary R N Choubey has now ordered a rationalisation of block times of flight to and from busy airport at peak hours to cut flight delays caused by this reason.

Explaining this widespread problem, Choubey said: “Supposing an airline has a departure slot from Mumbai at 2 pm and an arrival slot at Delhi at 4.30 pm. It takes off from Mumbai at 2 pm and the flying time to Delhi is about 2 hours. It approaches Delhi in that time.

However, Delhi airport has a landing slot for that airline at 4.30 pm and before that all other slots are for other arrivals. As a result, the pilot will announce that ‘while the airline/flight is on time, it is number xyz in landing sequence and ATC delays’ will mean it will land after some time.” The reality, on the other hand, is that the plane came to Delhi before its arrival slot time and had to hover due to that reason.

Consequently passengers inside will feel frustrated at the delay and feel that while the airline got them on time to their destination, ATC has delayed their arrival. “Different airlines using the same kind of plane like Airbus A-320 or Boeing 737 which have the same speed, file different block time for the same route. We have found this discrepancy exists on a very large scale for hundreds of routes. We have begun the task of rationalizing block times and matching them to arrival and departure slots to cut delays,” the secretary said.

The task is so enormous that the government has decided to start it with busiest and choked airports like Delhi and Mumbai and at other airports in their peak flight times. “The process of linking slots to block times will be done while giving new slots and while finalising summer and winter schedules.

Since the work is so enormous, it is not possible to say by when it will be completed,” Choubey said.

Updated: November 16, 2017 — 1:17 am

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