'Everyone knew the G20 summit will take place on September 9 and 10. The order could have been issued in July itself.
Air traffic curbs in view of the arrival of VIPs for the G20 summit in Delhi have kept domestic airlines and the city's airport officials on their toes, with some blaming last-minute diktats for causing avoidable inconvenience.
Airlines have informed the Delhi international airport about the cancellation of close to 160 domestic flights as a result of restrictions, which extend to roadside traffic, due to the high-security event on September 9 and 10.
The civil aviation ministry ordered airlines to restrict the number of flights between September 8 and 10 at the Delhi airport to make ample space for the G20 flights.
Additionally, the Delhi police said that road travel to the airport would be affected from September 8 to 10.
The police advised people to use the Delhi Metro's Airport Express Line for hassle-free movement.
According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, the Delhi international airport is slated to operate 3,497 flights during September 8 and 10.
Meanwhile, the Centre has also instructed Hindon airport -- which has not been handling any commercial flights since January this year -- to be prepared in case the landing of any VIP flight has to be shifted due to scarcity of parking spots at Delhi airport.
Hindon airport, situated near the north-eastern fringes of the national capital, is about 35 km from the Delhi international airport.
The road infrastructure from the Hindon airport to Pragati Maidan -- where the G20 summit will take place -- is not up to the mark for VIP and VVIP movement, so refurbishment work is ongoing on the stretch, government officials said.
"The road from Hindon airport to central Delhi is being beautified, with flowerpots and cutouts being put in place. The work will be done in the next couple of days," an official noted.
Hindon airport is operated by the government-run Airports Authority of India.
Meanwhile, the GMR Group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which operates the Delhi international airport, said it had formed a team of officials to monitor G20 arrival and departure operations to ensure the best experience for the delegates.
'DIAL is already working with different government departments like the ministry of external affairs, the ministry of home affairs, and the Delhi government to provide necessary support for guest facilitation,' it added.
DIAL said that Terminal 3 now prominently sports illuminated G20 summit logos that enhance the visual appeal both within and outside of it. It has also installed standee banners and cutouts detailing information about the G20 summit.
DIAL said it had taken proactive measures to spruce up the surroundings of the terminals.
'This includes the installation of designer fountains, sculptures, and decorative flower pots along the adjacent roads,' it mentioned.
The airport approach road was also adorned with elegantly designed fountains, it added.
Airline officials, however, complained that they should have been informed earlier about the flight cancellations or rescheduling due to the G20 summit.
"This kind of a last minute order creates immense problems for airlines as well as for passengers. Everyone knew that the G20 summit will take place on September 9 and 10. The order could have been issued in July itself," a network planning official of a major airline said.
Another airline official added that while only 160 flights had been cancelled at Delhi airport, the number could go up further.
According to Cirium, Delhi airport is scheduled to handle 5.7 per cent more passenger flights in September this year as compared to September last year (see chart).
DIAL said the airport had clarified that it was 'fully equipped' with sufficient parking space.
"News of cancellation of flights has no link to aircraft parking space. We have already provided the required parking. We'd like to assure all travellers that the Delhi airport is fully equipped with parking space for aircraft," a spokesperson added.
However, airline officials hinted at issues related to parking bays at the airport.
"About 70 planes are currently grounded at Delhi airport. Then, space is needed for planes bringing G20 leaders and delegates. This has compelled the government to ask airlines to curtail flights," an airline official said.
The G20 summit has lined up numerous meetings between heads of State, invitees and various officials.
The heads of State and government of over 30 countries will attend the summit.
This year, the theme for the G20 Summit is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which translates to 'One Earth, One Family, One Future'.
The G20 cohort includes leaders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK, US and the European Union.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com