A painful annual ritual at the Indira Gandhi International Airport is back despite promises that it would be kept away.
On Friday, dense fog disrupted flight schedules for more than eight hours and caused inconvenience to thousands of passengers, like it does this time of every year.
Indian Airlines: 01125675121, 01125675348/49/56
Jet Airways: 39893333, 39841111
Jetlite: 01130302020, 1800223020
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About 250 flights, international and domestic, were delayed between 30 minutes and six hours. Thirty-one flights were cancelled and seven were diverted to other airports as visibility dropped below 50 metres in the early hours. Visibility improved only around 11 am.
Passengers were stranded for hours either at the congested terminals or in the aircraft.
And all this happened despite airlines declaring that the number of pilots trained to fly in dense fog has gone up to 600 from 200.
For the past three years, the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have been warning airlines of strict action if they did not train their pilots and make their aircraft compliant to fly in CAT III-B conditions — when visibility is between 200 and 50 metres — using the Instrument Landing System.
The authorities have given airlines all possible warnings — from threats to cancel their winter slots to barring them from operating in Delhi during the fog season. But nobody seems to be listening, and this showed on Friday.
Only Indian Airlines, like every year, was able to land its planes in the fog using CAT III-B ILS. Though all airlines except SpiceJet have CAT III-B-trained pilots now, only Kingfisher could manage that operation and that too for a take-off, which is easier than landing.
The authorities, as usual, said they were helpless. “We have issued guidelines but DGCA doesn’t run the airlines. Although the airlines have sufficient number of CAT III-B trained pilots, they have not been able to plan their operations,” said DGCA Kanu Gohain. “They have to use their pilots optimally.”
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had recently said slots of airlines are not being cancelled because it would affect the passengers.
An IndiGo spokesperson said the visibility was too low for CAT III-B operations and a Kingfisher spokesperson gave the same reason for the airline’s failure to operate more flights in the dense fog. The fog, however, did not seem to deter Indian Airlines from operating six flights on time.