The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International AIrport (CSMIA) at Mumbai will re-open its Terminal 1 (T1) for flight operations starting tomorrow (Oct 13, 2021). The opening will be done in phases with all domestic flights of Go First and Star Air shifting with immediate effect. This will be followed by flights of AirAsia India and Trujet on Oct 16, 2021. Select flights of IndiGo will move to T1 in the winter schedule.
India headed into a total lockdown last year with the last flights landing on March 24, 2020. While domestic aviation restarted on May 25, 2020, it has been gradual with the government capping the capacity which airlines can deploy in the market.
This is the second time that CSMIA is opening T1. The airport had opened T1 for operations on March 10, 2021 only to close it on April 20, 2021 and consolidate operations in Terminal 2 (T2). The airport had scheduled to open T1 on Oct 20, 2021 but the huge rush leading to negative social media publicity with few passengers missing flights led to advancing the open date of the terminal.
Travel has picked up again with two consecutive days seeing over 3 lakh passengers in domestic skies, after 223 days! The opening up of the terminal 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.
While Go First has always had T1 as its home, 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. The airline operated from T1 again from March to April only to return to T2 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.
We will know how IndiGo manages its flights between T1 and T2. The airline has severe disadvantages due to the split and has not been able to work out a schedule where all its flights are from a single terminal.