Air passengers using chartered flights to arrive at or fly out of Delhi had a harrowing time on Wednesday when the airspace over the Capital was closed for five hours for non-scheduled operators due to the President's swearing-in ceremony.
A large number of chartered flights were delayed and many diverted to other airports. This is the third time in a week that chartered flights have faced problems due to closure of the airspace.
The airspace was closed last Saturday for more than an hour for recalibration of radar belonging to the Indian Air Force, which resulted in at least 50 flights getting delayed by up to two hours. On Sunday, the airspace was again closed between 4pm and 9pm for the same purpose. Though this time, scheduled commercial flights were allowed to operate.
On Wednesday, too, scheduled commercial flights were not affected but chartered flights were badly hit between 9am and 2pm.
On average, the Indira Gandhi International Airport handles 40 to 80 chartered flights every day.
"I was flying in my private jet from Bangalore to Delhi and we got all clearances on the way till the flight started descending for Delhi," said a senior official of an MNC, requesting to stay anonymous.
"Suddenly, at around 10am the pilot was told that airspace over Delhi has been closed and we were asked to divert to Bhopal. Why didn't the Airports Authority of India (AAI) inform us before we took off or were on the way? I have missed a crucial meeting while waiting at Bhopal airport," he said.
"The NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) for such closures should come at least a day in advance so that we can schedule flights accordingly. Many of our clients had to cancel appointments in other cities because we couldn't operate our flights after being informed at the last moment," said a chartered flight operator.
An AAI spokesman, however, said the notice was issued well in time on each day when airspace had to be closed.