The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International AIrport (CSMIA) at Mumbai will re-open its Terminal 1 (T1) for flight operations starting tomorrow (March 10, 2021). India headed into a total lockdown last year with the last flights landing on March 24, 2020. While domestic aviation has restarted on May 25, 2020, it has been gradual with government capping the capacity which airlines can deploy in the market.
CSMIA had consolidated operations through Terminal 2. As passenger numbers start inching up, the airport has decided to open both the terminals. This will not only help with distancing norms but it will also help increase business for the airport and retailers as food courts and retail outlets in T1 start seeing footfalls.
From midnight, March 10 – Go Air, Star Air, AirAsia India and Trujet will move all its domestic operations to Terminal 1. The curious case is that of market leader IndiGo – which will see most of its flight operations from Terminal 2 and few from T1. Initially there were resorts of base flights of IndiGo being operated from T1, but a closer look at the schedule and analysis shows that the flights which will operate from T1 are spread across the day. IndiGo flights with flight numbers between 6E 5500 and 6E 5999 will operate from T1.
In case of AirAsia India, the airline started operations to Mumbai – after multiple flip flops in the past, in January 2019. The operations were from T2. The airline shifted to T1 in October 2019. It found itself back at T2 in May 2020 and would return to T1 starting tomorrow. GoAir has been the most moved airline at Mumbai airport – with the airline operating from T1A, T1C and T2 in its history. Currently the T1A and C have merged to form a single T1.
What do the numbers say
When Jet Airways existed, both the terminals had nearly equal domestic departures with 165 daily domestic departures from T2 and 164 from T1. When the slots of Jet Airways were distributed, IndiGo, Spicejet and Go Air had to split their operations with the newer flights being operated from T2 – where Jet Airways operated.
Mumbai airport has only one operational runway at any time but runway capacity is not the only thing which is considered for allocating terminals. The terminal infrastructure like baggage belts, check-in counters, security hold area as well as security counters and the apron space to park aircraft.
With the current move, there are more departures from T1 than T2 but the exact balance would be known only when traffic is back to pre-COVID days. An ideal solution would have been for IndiGo to operate from T1 in entirety.
IndiGo operated an average of 86 daily domestic departures from Mumbai in January 2021. This is 30% lower than what it does normally. IndiGo operated 41% of all domestic departures in Mumbai in January 2021. IndiGo will be forced to operate only 10 flights from T1. These are to varied destinations like Kochi, Raipur, Goa, Madurai, Prayagraj, Trivandrum, Bengaluru, Udaipur and Chennai. Not all flights to these destinations are operating from T1, but just one in each case!
The airline has said that it has taken measures to ensure passengers are informed of this change at every stage of their journey with 6E. IndiGo is reaching out to all impacted passengers and their respective travel agents via SMS, calls, and emails provided in reservation details. IndiGo passengers are requested to retrieve their PNR on IndiGo’s website or mobile app to check their terminal before leaving for the airport.
The airline is at a huge disadvantage as passengers will have a difficult time connecting between T1 and T2. The airline continues to sell connections for flights which arrive at T1 and the next flight departing from T2 at Mumbai. Maintaining staff in proportion to the flights spread across the entire day time is also not the most optimum way of utilization for the airline. Nonetheless, IndiGo with its scale is going to face such challenging issues at multiple airports across the country where more than one terminal will be a norm in future.