Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport saw the season’s worst fog-led flight disruptions on Thursday.
It was the longest spell of fog this winter and led to over 200 flight delays. Flights were delayed for one to ten hours.
The number of flights diverted stood at 28 and 25 flights were cancelled.
Thousands of passengers were stranded at the international and domestic terminals, with serpentine queues at the airline and security counters.
While the terminals were bursting at the seams with passengers of delayed or cancelled flights, the airside was choked with aircraft.
Though airlines have claimed that they spent a lot of money to train pilots to land in near zero visibility using the CAT IIIB Instrument Landing System (ILS), there were very few take offs till 9 am on Thursday.
“The airport was already full with aircraft waiting to take off and when visibility improved, there was a horde of flights arriving at IGIA,” said a senior official of a full cost carrier who didn’t wish to be named.
The result was congestion and a shortage of parking bays.
Aircraft arriving at the airport had to wait for an hour on taxiway due to lack of parking bays. “Aircraft were parked along the taxiways the way you park your scooter on the roadside,” the official said.
There was also a shortage of step ladders. “When visibility improved by 11 am, there was a huge rush of arrivals. Most airlines didn’t have enough step ladders and passengers had to wait inside aircraft,” said a senior airport official who didn’t wish to be named.
There were many passengers who were stranded at the airport from Wednesday evening to Thursday afternoon as their flights got cancelled or were rescheduled.
Each conveyor belt was handling baggage from three airlines at the arrival terminal.
Dense fog had started to set in on Wednesday night and visibility was poor for nearly 15 hours at the airport.
Visibility dropped to zero and remained below 150 metres till 9 am.
The closure of Delhi’s air space for an hour for Republic Day fly past rehearsals made matters worse.