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19 AI flights on Sunday night, all delayed

Airlines are complaining that delayed takeoffs from India’s capital is leading to missed time-slots and major parking problems at super-busy European hubs, report Sidhartha Roy and Vijaita Singh.
Hindustan Times | By Sidhartha Roy and Vijaita Singh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2008 03:10 AM IST

Delhi’s miserable international airport has begun to export its suffering abroad. Airlines are complaining that delayed takeoffs from India’s capital is leading to missed time-slots and major parking problems at super-busy European hubs. The result is more delays, and a terrible cascade effect on airline skeds all around.

“We are missing our slots at Heathrow and Frankfurt as flights from Delhi are getting delayed regularly. We are writing to the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) every day,” D.S. Kohli, Air India executive director (northern), said.

“Once you miss a time slot at these airports, the aircraft cannot be parked in the bay, and the next departure gets delayed by two or three hours,” Kohli added.

A spokesperson of a major European career agreed: “Slot-management in EU airports is fully automatic and once you miss your take-off slot, no excuse in the world can help you,” he said.

Twenty-four hours after the Hindustan Times published a special report on the shameful mess at the airport, the situation had not improved at all.

Every single one of AI’s 19 flights out of Delhi between midnight and dawn of March 2-3 was delayed because of the terrible overcrowding at the terminal entrance, check-in counters and immigration desks.

“The average delay was two hours. Congestion at immigration counters kept people from getting to the aircraft,” an AI official said.

Almost every airline suffered the same fate. British Airways confirmed unofficially that both its flights were delayed. Early on Monday, a heated exchange took place between immigration officials and a British Airways manager as flight BA 256 was held up for an hour and a half because of slow immigration clearance.

Lufthansa said its flight to Frankfurt left Delhi more than an hour behind schedule on Monday morning. Lufthansa sources added that 23 of the airline's 29 flights to Frankfurt in February had taken off late.

Desperate carriers have started deploying extra staff at the departure lounge to try and guide their passengers through the mad rush at check-in and immigration. "Problems are bound to arise when major renovation work is under way," said an airline official. "But DIAL should have prepared for it. Their process management is totally flawed. Why are they not opening more gates for people to enter the airport?"

DIAL has no answers. Contacted by Hindustan Times on Monday, a spokesman said: "We are working towards solving the problems. We will take two months to improve the situation at the international terminal."

India’s airports were already among the world’s worst; the ongoing work has now pushed fliers’ sufferings to near-unendurable levels. Do you think the state of Delhi’s airport is hurting India’s image abroad? And is DIAL is doing everything it can to reduce the paying public’s pain?
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