Despite repeated warnings by the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) every winter, airlines are not doing much to reduce inconvenience caused to passengers in case flights are delayed due to low visibility.
Instead of informing passengers about the delay and asking them to wait in the waiting room, airlines often make them sit in stationary aircraft for hours. This is done so that aircrafts can take off as soon as the fog lifts.
In the past few years, this has become a common practice."This is so airlines can claim that the flight was on time, as technically the boarding time is considered when it comes to on-time performance. Also, airlines have to book a slot for take-off, so even in zero visibility they put the aircraft in queue so that it is the first to take off as soon as visibility improves," a senior airport officer said.
This year, the DGCA has directed the air traffic control (ATC) to put aircrafts in a sequence and give clearance for take-off based on the start-up request to avoid congestion.
“Every airline wants to depart first and that is why they send a start-up request. As runway 28 has a technical glitch this year, passengers will face more inconvenience,” the officer added.
Airlines, on the other hand, justify the move. “The visibility at Delhi airport improves and deteriorates within seconds. We want to be ready to take off in case visibility improves and thus we put our plane in sequence,” a Kingfisher officer said.
Passenger amenities Airlines are also supposed to provide free snacks and water to passengers if their flight is delayed for more than an hour. However, since passengers are made to sit inside the aircraft, airlines tend to violate this rule too.
Last year, passengers had even protested at the terminal after the airline started charging them for water.
“Airlines must ensure that passengers are given basic amenities along with provision for food at alternate airports in case of diverted flights. If a flight is unable to land in Delhi and is taken to a nearby airport, the airline is bound to provide basic amenities to passengers,” a DGCA officer said.
The DGCA is also planning to conduct random checks to ensure that airlines follow guidelines.
“If a flight is delayed due to bad weather, the passenger is stuck at the airport. The least the airline can do is arrange food and water for them. When they don’t, passengers tend to get angry. We have seen some violent protests in the past,” the officer added.
DGCA has asked the CISF to help airlines avoid any misconduct or violence on the part of passengers.