World Cup final: Ahmedabad creates air traffic records ahead of big match

As India take on Australia for the World Cup final at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday, the last two days have seen more focus on tickets — both for the match and to Ahmedabad. First came the news of record high prices the tickets for the match were fetching; it was quickly followed by the news of plane ticket prices for Ahmedabad from various metro cities in the country reaching as high as 40,000.

A folk dancer performs to welcome passengers arriving at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup final between India and Australia. (Reuters)
A folk dancer performs to welcome passengers arriving at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final between India and Australia. (Reuters)

Airlines quickly deployed additional capacity, led by IndiGo and Vistara as fares continued to inch higher and higher.

Airlines were not the only responders to the demand — railways also added additional trains to Ahmedabad from Mumbai.

Also read: World Cup Final: Motera gears up for a grand spectacle

Record traffic

The extra flights, end of Diwali holidays, Chatth Puja travel had a combined effect on Saturday, Nov 18, 2023, when the domestic air traffic in India saw 4,56,748 passengers, breaching its previous best of 456,082, which was recorded on the last day of April. In doing so, all it took was nine more flights than what operated on April 30.

India vs Australia World Cup final: Indian fans inside the stadium before the match. (Reuters)
India vs Australia World Cup final: Indian fans inside the stadium before the match. (Reuters)

On an otherwise muted Diwali and November, the record has come like the much-needed bright light and cheer. The total traffic from the first until 18th November still remains lower than October and averages lower than November 2019, which was before the coronavirus pandemic.

A part of this was driven by the passengers flying to Ahmedabad for the grand finale of the Cricket World Cup.

Also read: PM Modi’s message to Team India for World Cup Final vs Australia: ‘May you shine bright…’

Airspace closure

Starting 1315 hours local time until 1410 hours, the Airport at Ahmedabad will remain closed for all operations today. Additionally, a radius of 10 km will not have any traffic up to FL 120 or 12,000 feet from ground as the Surya Kiran acrobatic team of the Indian Air Force performs over the Narendra Modi Stadium before the start of the match to enthrall the crowds.

While there won’t be any passengers planning to land at this time and head to the match, a 50 minute closure at a busy airport does have an impact on the overall operations – especially on a day when extra flights and passengers are being handled.

At mid-day, flight tracking site FlightRadar24’s disruption index showed an average delay of 28 minutes for arrivals at Ahmedabad and an average delay of 42 minutes for departures from Ahmedabad. The airport was the third most disrupted airport in the world as per FlightRadar24.

Check India vs Australia Live Score, World Cup 2023 Final

Carry extra fuel and don’t divert to Ahmedabad

Airlines have been advised to carry extra fuel for flights to Ahmedabad when flying between 0700 hrs on Nov 19 to 1000 hrs on Nov 20, in view of extra flights and anticipated congestion. From 0700 hrs local time on Nov 19, up to 1800 hrs on Nov 20; Ahmedabad airport won’t be available as a planned diversion airport.

VVIPs, private charters, extra flights from scheduled airlines, airspace closure limiting the operational window are all going to add pressure on the airport. Accepting a diverted flight would further add to the challenge since the bays are being utilised at the maximum, leaving no space to cater to any additional aircraft. The airport would thus accept only emergency diversions, and airlines are advised to not file Ahmedabad as a routine diversion point.

A route diversion also keeps getting updates on the flight which adds to the workload of Air Traffic Controllers – something best avoided today.

Announcements in the sky

All airlines are planning to update its passengers on the score in the sky. Few, like Vistara, will also have the matches streamed on a handful of aircraft. Cricket has been a religion in India and a final like this attracts extra attention by everyone. This also becomes a good platform for airlines and its marketing to differentiate and in some cases just catch up with what competition is doing.

In an otherwise dull looking Diwali from a passenger numbers perspective, there has been a sudden adrenaline rush with high passengers and sky high fares. A two day swing, the traffic to Ahmedabad on the 18th and return on the 20th can literally change fortunes for the airline even when the return sectors have hardly attracted traffic.

All eyes remain on the match, but before that and after – it’s in the air where the action is, starting with the display of the Surya Kiran jets and the sky high air fares!

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