A litigation over the setting up of two billboards near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) is leading to a loss of more than Rs10 crore monthly to Air India as its Mumbai-Newark direct flight has to carry 51 fewer passengers or 15% below capacity in order to get a proper lift.
The national carrier has taken up the matter with the civil aviation ministry. Minister of state (aviation) GM Siddeshwara briefed Parliament about it on Monday.
According to airline insiders, the 16-hour non-stop Newark service, which is the longest such direct flight by an Indian carrier, requires the twin-engine Boeing 777 aircraft to carry a high fuel load. But any control on the aircraft's weight can come in the form of fewer passengers.
An Air India spokesperson sought a day to respond while Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) officials said the matter is the responsibility of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which sanctions and provides NOCs for structures surrounding the airport.
P Chinson, GM (aerodromes), AAI, did not respond to phone calls made by dna. Another AAI official who did not want to be named said he needs a day to check the records.
The losses to the airline seem even more significant considering the fact that debt-ridden Air India, which is surviving on a help package of Rs30,000 crore from central government is making all attempts to make a turnaround and any revenue-bleeding will dampen its efforts, claim airline officials.
Airport sources say the billboards, some as high as a seven-floor building, are located in the flight path. All but two of a the 15 billboards have been removed, minister Siddeshwara told Parliament on Tuesday.
The two billboards are under litigation, he said. "As soon as the remaining two hoardings are removed, the load penalty to Air India Mumbai-Newark flight, shall be reduced significantly," the minister said.
The BMC's licence department, however, said only one hoarding is left to be removed. An advertiser challenged the civic body's move and approached the Bombay high court for relief. "The court passed an order asking the advertiser to seek NOC from AAI. Only if the agency gets the approval we can allow the billboard," an official said. Since the advertiser hasn't yet applied it means either he has not approached the AAI or his application has been rejected.