Mangalore resident Vatsal Pillai was fine-tuning a Powerpoint presentation till midnight for an early-morning meeting at Mumbai on Wednesday. But low visibility coupled with heavy rain forced his flight to land at Ahmedabad. The 34-year-old was amongst hundreds of fliers stranded at airports for the second day in three days, courtesy the rain. “It’s a waste of time and money,” he said.
At around 8 am, the visibility at Mumbai airport dropped to 400 metres, forcing three diversions. A Spicejet flight (SG 131) from Delhi was the first to be diverted to Ahmedabad, followed by Indian flight (IC 971) from Mangalore and GoAir flight (G8 229) from Delhi.
Worse, gusty tail winds (winds towards the course of an aircraft) shut operations on the secondary runway. “Strong winds of 15 to 25 knots and fluctuating visibility affected operations,” said a Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) spokesperson.
As a result, incoming and departing flights had to jostle for space on the airport’s main runway, leading to an average delay of an hour.
Air traffic control officials said that at any given time 12 to 15 flights were circling over the airport because of the congestion.
Aircraft queues on the tarmac were equally long. Passengers on board an Air India flight to Chennai were stuck in the plane for an hour because it did not get take-off clearance after boarding.
According to www.mumbaimonsoon.com, the civic body’s weather portal, the area around the airport recorded 54 mm (rather heavy) of rain on Wednesday.