It turned out to be a bad New Year’s day for air travellers at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday. Several flights were cancelled due to thick fog.
To make matters worse, several airline operators did not comply with guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Passengers had a tough time. Many were stranded as flights were delayed by up to five hours and airlines did not inform them about the rescheduling of flights. Airline operators, according to passengers, refused to cooperate and help them out.
“They did not even provide us with refreshments despite the long delays,’ a passenger said.
The DGCA has directed all airlines to regularly monitor the fog situation from the Met Department and Air Traffic Control and reschedule their flights accordingly. They have been told to inform their passengers about the flight status.
The DGCA had held a meeting with the airline operators, Delhi International Airport (Private) Ltd., Air Traffic Control and other stakeholders to tackle fog-related problems. The DGCA had asked all stakeholders, especially the airlines, to follow the instructions. “The directives, however, remain ineffective as the airlines are following them halfheartedly or not at all,” said a senior DGCA official.
“There was a huge backlog at the airport today. The situation can improve if the airlines reschedule more flights or just cancel them, which would lessen the pressure,” said a senior air traffic controller.
“However, we cannot ask them to reschedule flights, it is their own decision,” he said.
“The airlines were ordered to inform passengers on time but they are not doing so. Most airlines have not positioned senior officials at the airport as directed,” the official added.
The problem, the official said, was that many airlines had outsourced the job of sending text messages to passengers’ mobiles informing them about flight delays.
“There is huge gap in the process as this is done by private firms,” he said.
Airlines, however, claim that they are following all DGCA directives. Spokespersons of IndiGo, Air Deccan and SpiceJet said that they provide snacks to stranded passengers. They also claim that they inform passengers about delays, rescheduling and cancellations in time. “We call up or sms our passengers whenever there is a delay,” claimed the Jet Airways spokesperson.
Director-General of Civil Aviation Kanu Gohain admitted that several airlines were not cooperating but also said that he was unable to take strong action against them. “As a regulator, I can only counsel them and keep persuading them. However, I cannot be a policeman as I do not have the legal authority to take penal action against erring airlines,” he said.
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