The Indira Gandhi International Airport witnessed major chaos on Wednesday after dense fog led to the airport being shut for more than three hours. The backlog meant flights were delayed till evening, some by more than five hours.
The dense fog on Wednesday took everyone at the airport by surprise. “As shallow fog intensified to very dense fog, the IGIA experienced sudden fall of the Runway Visual Range (RVR) from 1000 metre to 150 metre at 6.21am,” said a source in the met department. After 6.30 am, visibility was nearly zero and the airport was shut till 9.28 am. The RVR and visibility only improved around after 10.30 am to 1000 metre and 600 metre, respectively, the source added.
At least 250 flights were delayed, out of which 26 were cancelled and 18 had to be diverted to other airports. All flights going to Srinagar were affected due to bad weather there. All morning flights were delayed by one to four hours and the delays further stretched to more than five hours.
“All our 60 flights were delayed today,” said senior official of a full-cost carrier who didn’t wish to be named.
Passenger woes “I reached Delhi airport at 4 am to take the 6 am JetLite flight to Lucknow. After sitting for an hour inside the plane, I was told at 8.30 am that it has been cancelled ,” he said. Some passengers, like Abinash Ghosh, a government employee from Kolkata, preferred to cancel their tickets instead of waiting endlessly.
Passengers were stranded for hours at the airport terminals or inside planes. “My JetLite flight was expected to reach Delhi at 9.30 am but finally landed at 12.30 pm. I had to spend three hours sitting on the plane at Mumbai airport,” said Vivek Kapur, a passenger.
Another passenger, VK Awasthi, was seen playing cards with a friend to spend time while waiting for his flight to Raipur to announce security check. The 10.30 a.m. flight was rescheduled for 1.45 pm.
Those who were stranded at the airport also included senior politicians like LK Advani, N Chandrababu Naidu and Om Prakash Chautala. Actor Amitabh Bachchan had to wait in Jaipur for an extra three hours due to fog in Delhi.
The backlog meant the afternoon and evening flights were severely delayed, some by up to five hours. Most passengers were made to sit inside planes while they waited to take-off. “The reason we make passengers sit in the plane is because the terminals don’t have enough space. Also, when all passengers are on board and the aircraft is shut, the aircraft gets priority to take-off,” said a senior official of a full-cost carrier.
As visibility remained below 50 metres for more than three hours, flight operations could not take place even with the help of CAT III-B Instrument Landing System. During the day, only the main runway was operational (Runway 28/10) and both the runways could be used only after 4 pm. Low visibility procedures were in place from 5.55 am to 11.05 am on Wednesday.
“Nobody expected fog today and the chaos showed. Even when the fog was lifted, the whole system inside the airport was clogged,” he said. “Major problem was at the bay parking area as dense fog descended suddenly.”
It was not just airside where scores of aircraft were waiting to take-off, the scene was similar at the roads outside. The huge volume of cars coming to the domestic airport meant that the roads got choc-o-bloc even though more space has been created by airport operator Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd.
“There was a huge line of cars going towards the airport and took me a lot of time to reach here. The parking was full too,” said Tanya Sharma, a passenger. Deepak Kumar, coming from Baroda, had to wait for more than an hour for the car that would take him to his relatives home in Delhi.