A Mumbai-Dubai flight was delayed on departure by nearly 40 minutes on Friday, after many travelers were held up at the immigration, which has been hampered by a shortage of staff over the past few months.
The Indigo flight (6E-61) could not get moving at its scheduled 7pm departure time as at least 15 travelers had not boarded the aircraft. "The flight was delayed till all the passengers were done with the immigration process," said Ajay Anant Borwankar, a senior marketing executive who was on the flight.
The delay at immigration is one of the problems that continue to nag international travelers checking in at the new T2 terminal of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), which opened only a fortnight ago.
Travelers describe long queues at immigration are a regular phenomenon, resulting in flight delays, and this does wear them out even before the journey has begun.
T2 has 60 immigration counters for departures and 76 for arrivals, but quite a few of them are unmanned because of the lack of staff.
A senior airport official said they were in touch with the government to get more staff at the immigration section. "The situation could turn even more serious in the coming weeks as the number of flights increase, if the staff problem is not addressed," the official said.
Immigration section is handled by the Foreign Regional Registration Office (FRRO), under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Sources said the immigration department has a staff of sbout 600, whereas the requirement is 800. A department official said that a requisition has been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The section was managed by the Mumbai police till 2009.
This problem defeats the purpose of the new terminal that is supposed to manage the growth in air traffic in the coming years. Already a couple of airlines have introduced new flights in the past fortnight and the big operators like Emirates, Singapore, Lufthansa, besides Jet Airways, Indigo and the country's flagship Air India plan to increase the number of flights soon.
Aswati Dorje, deputy commissioner of police, who heads the Bureau of Immigration (Mumbai) did not respond to calls from dna.