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High-Flying Hawkers

Dodging Mumbai's Monster Billboards Adds to Air India Woes


Dodging Mumbai's Monster Billboards Adds to Air India Woes

Photograph by Dhiraj Singh for Businessweek.com

In the legion of problems that can beset an airline, here’s a novel one: gigantic billboards.

Super-sized advertisements stand in the flight path of Mumbai’s main airport, forcing departures to climb rapidly on takeoff. But Air India’s daily 15-hour flight to Newark, N.J., which requires a full load of fuel, would be too heavy to clear the billboard with its full load of passengers.

As a result, Air India now leaves 51 passengers off the Boeing (BA) 777-300ER. Flying 15 percent under capacity means losing 100 million rupees ($1.6 million) per month on the route, an Indian aviation minister told legislators on Monday, according to my Bloomberg News colleague, Anurag Kotoky.

Photograph by Dhiraj Singh for Businessweek.com

Airport officials at Chhatrapati Shivaji International have so far removed 13 of the 15 offending billboards in flight paths.

Air India has not reported a profit for eight years and required a government-funded rescue in 2012. United Airlines (UAL) uses a smaller 777-200 for the same route and has not experienced similar problems on departures, a spokeswoman told Bloomberg News.

Bachman is an associate editor for Businessweek.com.

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