Passengers narrate ordeal, taxiways jammed
Locked inside a plane for around seven hours, Ruchi Chauhan tweeted out her frustration: “In plane with two kids since 5am. Plane went to runway and after waiting for hours came back to bay for fuel in. Pilot makes announcements but of no help and gap is too much. They are saying they will fly but when there is no clear message to passengers.”
Chauhan was among the thousands stranded either inside a plane or in the terminals as the Indira Gandhi International Airport suffered one of the worst weather-related situations: over 600 flights were delayed while 40 flights, including six international flights, were cancelled as dense fog hit Delhi throughout the day. As many as 21 incoming flights were also diverted to nearby airports as visibility dropped to below 50 metres during the early hours.
Pankaj Singh, a Ranchi-based businessman who had come to Delhi to drop off his sister and daughter, said their flight was scheduled to depart at 11.50am. Singh said the plane finally departed at 4.24pm and they reached Ranchi by around 6.30pm.
But he said the airline and airport operators managed the situation poorly. “We understand clearance could not be given because of poor visibility but the airport operator should have updated passengers correctly. While the display at the airport showed a delay of one-and-a-half-hours, the mobile app of the airline displayed three hours delay,” he said, adding that the airline also did not offer them refreshments until around 2.30 pm.
Singh also took to Twitter and said, “Why in @DelhiAirport @IndiGo6E giving refreshments but @goairlinesindia has no arrangements for people struck by delayed flight for 4hrs to 3hrs.”
To this tweet, GoAir replied, “Hi, we are sorry to note your disappointment and we completely understand your frustration. We have shared your feedback with the concerned team. We hope to serve you better in your future travels.” (sic.)
Another flyer, Shamayita Das said her plane took off after waiting for five hours on-board. “Several co-passengers deplaned and children felt stifled. Fingers crossed…nevertheless, I can understand that situation was indeed beyond anybody’s help,” she tweeted.
Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIA) did not respond to e-mail for comment.
Fighting the fog
An official described the situation inside the Delhi air traffic control (ATC) as “nothing less than a war room”. Departures were put on hold till 9am.
“Visibility was below the minimum requirement of 125 metres. Because of this, the parking bays were full. However, since arrivals continued, the taxiways too were jammed,” the official said.
Senior officer were also present in the ATC to manage the crisis.
RK Jenamani, senior scientist, National Weather Forecast Centre, IMD Delhi, said they have also been sharing advance fog prediction data with the Delhi ATC. “We are giving real time forecast about the fog. Most flights were cancelled either because of technical reason or because of the minimum visibility requirement. The flights that were diverted were mostly because of the non-compliant CATIIIB crew onboard,” he said.