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Mallaya blames airport for flight delays

He says airport infrastructure needs to be improved to handle flight operations during fog, reports Lalatendu Mishra.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2006 16:45 IST

Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallaya has hit out at the inept handling of flight operations at the Delhi airport that has been causing flight disruptions across all networks during dense fog. He said the major factor behind flight delays is the practice of allowing all aircrafts to land in one holding pattern irrespective of whether they are CAT III compliant or not.

Since there are nearly 100 flights operations between Mumbai and Delhi, any delays at the national capital affect Mumbai the most. Other sectors also get affected by consequential delays.

"Everybody is blaming the airlines for flight delays due to fog but infrastructure at the airport needs to improve. All our aircrafts and others having Airbus 320s in their fleet are CAT III complaint and can land in poor visibility conditions.
But the practice of following one holding pattern while allowing all types of aircraft to land makes the CAT III complaint aircraft to wait in the queue, resulting in unnecessary delays," said Mallaya in a telephonic interview with Hindustan Times.

He said, "Though Kingfisher has 20 sets of pilots to operate under CAT III B conditions to make landing possible below 200 meters visibility, we are helpless. Our aircraft have to wait in the air in queue as several Boeing aircraft without the CAT III capability are allowed to land before us. But they can not land unless visibility improves and we have been compelled to wait despite being equipped to operate."

Mallaya said during fog there is no problem in take offs. "Arrival in Delhi is the main problem. Flight from all over head to Delhi and are made to circle around because some non CAT III complaint aircraft is ahead in the queue. Once one of our flight was 25 in the queue for landing," Mallaya said.

But a senior Air Traffic Controller from the Delhi airport while asking not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press refuted Mallaya’s charges. "We have been allowing all CAT III aircrafts to land before the non CAT III ones. Whatever Mallaya is saying is baseless and there is no need for separate holding patterns."

But Mallaya countered this saying, "The very first day of fog in Delhi our Mumbai-Delhi flight IT 301 took 3.45 hours to land at Delhi. Our chief pilot who has the expertise to operate under CAT III commanded the flight. Will someone from the ATC explain why was the flight so delayed if they were allowing CAT III complaint aircraft to land before others?"

A Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) spokesman while saying that the airport is equipped to handle CAT III operations said take-offs and landing are at the sole discretion of the ATC and not of the airport operator.

Meanwhile, Mallaya while commenting on the recent order of the consumer court allowing compensation for air passengers due to flight delays said, "Compensation should be given in case the airline is solely at fault. And giving compensation of Rs 10,000 that is more than the ticket fare is ridiculous. Now some passengers are even flying at less than Rs 3000."

First Published: Dec 28, 2006 16:45 IST