Top Considerations When Operating to Mumbai – Part 2: CIQ and Operating Tips
This is a post by author Sameer Kadam. Sameer is manager of operations for Universal Aviation India – New Delhi. Sameer is an expert on business aircraft operations in India and can be contacted at email@example.com.
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, titled "Business Aviation Trip Planning Tips: Mumbai (VABB) – Part 1: Permits and Parking."
For business aircraft operators traveling to Mumbai (VABB), trips have become easier over recent years with the establishment of the new General Aviation Terminal (GAT) with onsite Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities. However, there are still some potential pitfalls you should be aware of before operating to VABB. Here’s an overview of what you should know.
1. CIQ is cleared at the GAT
The ground handler will transport passengers and luggage to the GAT for CIQ clearance. Clearance normally takes about two to three minutes per passenger. After passengers have cleared, the ground handler will work with crew to ensure all requested services such as lav/water, jet fuel and in-flight catering are organized. Once the aircraft is shut down, crew will be transported to the GAT for clearance. Arrival/departure cards are needed for crew/passengers, and your ground handler will pre-prepare these cards, assuming information has been sent in advance. Passports must have at least six months’ remaining validity when traveling to this location. Visas, when required, should be obtained prior to arrival and need to be presented along with the passport under which it was obtained. There have been occasions where requests for visas on arrival have been denied. All crew need to have a valid business visa, as traveling on a tourist visa is not permitted for crew flying on business aviation aircraft.
2. Bring a towbar
Aircraft operating to VABB should carry towbars, as aircraft are permitted to arrive subject to having it on board. GAT and local ground handlers have very few towbars available, and, if you arrive without one, it will take time to find a solution. Be aware that at VABB, by regulation, 180-degree aircraft turns are not permitted.
3. Be mindful of fuel considerations
If you land in India from an international location – and your next leg is domestic – you’ll pay fuel duty for any jet fuel remaining onboard. Your ground handler will take care of these charges and invoice you later. Landing at VABB for tech stop purposes is relatively straightforward, with typical turn times of about an hour. Tax on fuel remaining onboard does not apply in cases of international tech stops.
4. Be aware of other operating requirements at VABB
Runways and aprons are in good condition at VABB, and there are no noise restrictions currently in place. At this location, it’s mandatory for crew members to go to Air Traffic Control (ATC) to present their IDs and sign the flight plan. Even though your flight plan is filed and ready, it will not be validated until crew members present themselves to ATC. ATC will ask crew members for entry/exit points for India, so it’s best for the captain to be prepared in advance with this information.
5. Plan to depart for the airport four hours prior to departure
Depending on your hotel location, and time of day, it’s best to depart the hotel for VABB at least four hours prior to the estimated departure time. This is due to frequent heavy traffic conditions in the Mumbai area. Best practice is to choose 4- or 5-star hotels as close to the airport as possible.
6. Consider in-flight catering limitations
If you’re self-catering from a hotel or restaurant – rather than using an airport in-flight caterer – be aware of local rules/procedures for bringing food airside. All catering must be properly sealed prior to going through security screening, and larger volumes of liquids (such as soups) may be an issue. At VABB, it’s recommended to use an airport in-flight caterer, as these security screening hurdles do not apply.
7. Don’t forget anything onboard the aircraft
Once crew clears the aircraft, the aircraft will be sealed by airport authorities, and it’s not an easy process to return to the aircraft prior to the day of departure. If crew/passengers forget something and need to go back to retrieve it, you must provide airport authorities with an official technical reason for re-entering the aircraft. The process of getting back aboard your aircraft will take at least two hours, and charges are involved. It’s always best to ensure nothing is left onboard.
Best way to avoid pitfalls is to plan well in advance with your ground handler or 3rd-party provider, and ask them to consult you through the operational landscape of VABB. Confirm documentation requirements ahead of time. Make sure you understand local airport procedures. And when in Mumbai, give yourself plenty of time when traveling on the ground to get back to your aircraft.
If you have any questions about this article or if you would like assistance with planning your next trip to VABB, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.