The unusual wet weather in May brought relief to Delhi but misery for fliers. Disruption in airline services caused by freak weather last month was at least as bad as that caused by Delhi’s infamous — and feared — winter-season fog.
Delhi airport recorded 26 thunderstorms and 10 squalls in May 2008, the most in the past decade. This led to over 30 flights being diverted to airports like Lucknow and Jaipur — as many as those diverted during the three-month fog season from December 2007-February 2008. Loss to carriers: over Rs 1 crore.
Sudden rise in wind speeds during a squall can disturb an aircraft’s path, making landings and take-offs difficult. “This May witnessed completely freak weather,” said an Air India official. “Everyone is usually prepared for problems in the fog season, but this kind of weather in May was unprecedented,” he said.
A flight that is diverted to Lucknow after failing to land in Delhi could lead to the aircraft spending an extra hour and a half in the air, apart from the time it spends circling over Delhi first. Close to 2.5 tonnes of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) is burnt during every hour in the air. ATF prices, which were Rs 56,000 a tonne in May, have risen 50 per cent since, and airlines have passed the burden on to fliers.
“Apart from the wasted fuel, parking and landing charges at the other airport, and payments to pilots and crew add to the expenses. The additional cost
of diverting a Delhi-bound A-320 or Boeing 747 to, say, Lucknow, is about Rs 5 lakh,” said a senior SpiceJet official.