Thousands of passengers flying in and out of Mumbai were stranded on Tuesday after flight operations at the city airport were suspended for three hours.
The reason: A combination of poor visibility because of smog and a shorter runway because of repair work.
In its October 29 issue, Hindustan Times had mentioned that this combination of factors could lead to flight disruptions in winter.
Of the 58 flights scheduled for take-off and landing, only 19 flights were operated. Fourteen city-bound flights were diverted to different airports like Ahmedabad, Pune, Aurangabad, Bangalore and Hyderabad, inconveniencing fliers.
Every week, on Tuesday, only a shortened runway is available between noon and 6 pm as it’s being repaired.
Airport officials shut down the runway at 2 pm after smog reduced visibility to 1,800 metres, way below the 2,400-metre limit permissible on the curtailed runway.
This visibility limit was set by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation after a series of near-mishaps on earlier Tuesdays.
Flight operations resumed after 4.30 pm.
The India Meteorological Department has warned that Mumbai may be enveloped in smog often through winter.
“Even a marginal dip in temperature will cause smog presence due to air pollutants in the atmosphere,” said R.V. Sharma, deputy director, IMD.
The Mumbai airport operator has called an emergency meeting with airlines to discuss measures to avoid flight disruptions in the coming weeks.