Planning to take a short flight from Delhi to Chandigarh, Amritsar or Shimla? You would be better off taking a train, bus or car.
Though dense fog is yet to descend upon Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, the dip in visibility in the early hours and foggy conditions at other airports in northern India are affecting flights to nearby cities.
Airlines mostly use smaller aircraft like ATRs and CRJs, which can accommodate 40 to 50 passengers, to operate flights between short distances like Delhi to Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Shimla or Dehradun. Unlike bigger aircraft like an Airbus 320, these aircraft can't land in poor visibility.
Aircraft land in bad visibility using Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), which guides pilots to locate the runway in poor visibility. The ATRs and CRJs, however, don't have the equipment to use ILS.
On Wednesday, for instance, three morning flights from Chandigarh and Amritsar were delayed by two to four hours. During the same time, flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore arrived only 15 minutes late. Morning departures too were affected due to bad weather.
"Though visibility at IGI airport is not too poor yet, foggy conditions at airports like Chandigarh and Amritsar are pretty bad," said a senior official of a full-cost carrier. He , however, didn't wish to be identified.
"We use smaller aircraft for short distances as these are economical but they can't operate even in moderate fog."
AS Narang, a west Delhi resident, learnt this the hard way on Tuesday after his short trip from Delhi to Amritsar turned into an eight-hour journey.
"I booked a Jetkonnect ticket at steep price because I had to attend my uncle's cremation in Amritsar," he said.
The 7.50 am flight (9W 2631) was cancelled at 9.30am as the ATR aircraft couldn't fly in poor visibility.
The flight was combined with a JetLite flight (S2 267), which eventually landed at 4 pm at Amritsar airport.
"I missed the cremation even after shelling out a huge amount on airfare," Narang said.
"I could have rather taken a R250 train ticket and reached Amritsar at 2 pm."
However, a Jet Airways spokeswoman said the flight was delayed due to inclement weather conditions and poor visibility at IGI airport.
The cancellation was in line with the airlines emphasis on safety, which is of paramount importance, he said.