With development work at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) expected to get done by next year, Mumbai is set to shoot back into prominence for national carrier Air India. The airline is said to be mulling over restarting a few of its discontinued routes from the city and adding new ones.
To start with, the airline will put the Dreamliner aircraft on the popular Mumbai-London route once operations at Terminal 2 start from February.
Air India, which had headquarters in Mumbai since its inception, had shifted to Delhi last year, citing lack of seamless connectivity at the airport and logistic problems, making the Indira Gandhi International airport the move’s biggest benefactor. The shift was protested by political parties, including Shiv Sena, which cautioned the airline management against the move.
Currently, the airline is without a direct connection to Durban, Tokyo, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Frankfurt, Nairobi and several other destinations. Many of its flights, especially on routes to Europe, the US and Africa, were discontinued over the past few years, when Air India started looking at making Delhi its major hub.
During an interaction, Air India’s executive director (Western region) R Harihar said the airline expects to get seamless connectivity at CSIA once the development work gets completed.
“Seamless connectivity at CSIA has been a problem. Delhi airport scores over it at the moment. Once the development work gets completed here, we may revive some older routes or add new ones,” he said, adding that Air India, which is betting big time on state-of-the-art Boeing Dreamliner 787, will put the aircraft on the Mumbai-London route for its (the aircraft’s) Mumbai debut in February. Until now, Mumbai was not on the radar for Dreamliner operations due to lack of infrastructure for it.
Airline insiders claimed that what made the matter tick for Delhi was the opening of Terminal 3 in 2010, which provided for easy and fast transfer of passengers and their baggage. In contrast, the constraints at the CSIA led to the airline facing a lot of difficulties in operations, putting a lot of strain on it on various fronts, including time, finance, manpower and logistics.