The spell of dense fog at Delhi's international airport is turning out to be a nightmare for passengers. Not only are flights getting delayed due to bad weather, fliers are often being forced inside aircraft where they are confined for hours till take-off.
On Wednesday, nearly 200 passengers of a British Airways flight to London spent seven agonising hours inside the aircraft while the pilot waited for visibility to improve.
On Friday, when dense fog wreaked havoc with flight schedules, passengers of a Jet Airways Delhi-Mumbai flight (9W 332) complained that they were forced to sit inside the aircraft for nearly five hours.
Passengers alleged that the flight, which was scheduled to depart at 6.50am, finally took off at 11.30am due to dense fog. They said they were forced to sit inside the aircraft during this time.
When contacted, a Jet Airways spokesperson said the passengers were made to board the aircraft as the Air Traffic Control had said the weather was going to improve soon.
The spokesperson claimed the passengers didn't have to sit inside the aircraft for more than two hours.
These two are not just one-off incidents of passengers being forcefully confined inside aircraft and made to wait for durations longer than the actual time it takes to reach their destination. Most airlines prefer to pack in their passengers even when visibility is poor so that they could take off the moment the weather clears.
Every winter, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issues guidelines for fog operations that clearly say airlines cannot make passengers board their aircraft if the visibility is poor. The guidelines also say that airlines should provide timely flight information to passengers and provide them food and other amenities at the terminal.
But they remain only on paper as the DGCA lacks the teeth to enforce them. The guidelines are yet to be formalised as rules. The civil aviation regulator also doesn't enunciate any punitive action against the airlines.
Compare this to the Federal Aviation Administration, the civil aviation regulator of USA, that imposes steep fine on airlines if they make passengers wait inside the aircraft for more than three hours.