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Deja vu as fog grounds air travellers

Another winter and the same story as six-hour delays exasperate passengers in Delhi, reports Sidhartha Roy.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2006 01:32 IST

It is the same story every winter, and nothing seems to change. Air travellers again had a harrowing time at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Saturday morning as dense fog threw flight operations out of gear and chaos ruled at the airport. About 100 flights were delayed and some were cancelled or diverted due to the congestion at the airport.

It was not just air travel that was hit. The fog also caused many road accidents in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, killing four and injuring at least 64. Also 25 trains were delayed, some up to seven hours.

Sunday may be no better. “There will be dense fog on Sunday, but visibility should be better,” said RK Jenamani of the Indian Meteorological Department.

The fog on Saturday forced the airport to shut down operations for three hours as fog reduced visibility to almost zero. As the flights kept piling up and only one runway was operational, there were delays of up to six hours.

Air services were suspended at 6 am after visibility dipped below 50 metres. Though visibility improved slightly after 9 am, only few flights equipped with CAT III instrument landing system could operate.

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded at the airport and the road outside the domestic terminal was choc-a-bloc with vehicles.

Passengers complained that airlines did not inform them of delays and cancellations. “I received an SMS from the airline but by that time I was already at the airport,” said Swati Khurana, a Delhi resident travelling to Bangalore.

Even President APJ Kalam’s flight to Mumbai was delayed. Three flights were diverted — Air Astama and Alitalia to Mumbai, and Royal Jordanian to Karachi.

Two Jet Airways flights and one of SpiceJet were cancelled.

Kingfisher and IndiGo were recently permitted to operate under CAT III-A conditions (with runway visual range of 200 to 350 metres), while Jet, Air Sahara, SpiceJet and Air Deccan operated under CAT II conditions (RVR of 350 to 500 metres).

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First Published: Dec 24, 2006 01:25 IST