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More fliers stranded at Indian airports as winter sets in

According to data from the civil aviation ministry, the number of air travelers, who were held up, rose from 37,488 in October to 63,527 last month

mumbai Updated: Dec 31, 2015 17:31 IST
Soubhik Mitra
Soubhik Mitra
Hindustan Times
Airports,India,Civil Aviation

The number of domestic fliers stranded at Indian airports for more than two hours rose by over 26,000 in November as compared the previous month courtesy the beginning of fog-induced flight disruptions in the country.

According to data from the civil aviation ministry, the number of air travelers, who were held up, rose from 37,488 in October to 63,527 last month.

The data added that almost 70% domestic flights in November were delayed owing to ‘reactionary factors’ which mean delays caused by a combination of reasons.

“In majority of cases such delays begin by a flight delay caused by weather conditioned unfriendly or unsafe for air travel and end up having a cascading affect in the entire day’s flight schedule,” said a senior official with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), requesting anonymity.

The ministry data added that weather was the primary reason behind four out to 10 last minute flight cancellations last month.

Industry experts said that the DGCA needs to lay down stringent fog-preparedness measures. “It is only the beginning of the winter and we have already seen such a spike in flight delays. This shows that we need to be better equipped,” said a member of a ministry-appointed independent advisory panel, who did not wish to be named.

A source from an aviation think tank said the problem is likely to escalate over the next two months.

The worst fog-induced flight disruptions were recorded last December and this January. While close to 1.9 lakh passengers faced last minute flight cancellations or delays exceeding two hours in December 2014, the number rose to 2.09 lakh in January, according to data from the ministry.

Air India recorded the highest number of delay-affected fliers with 31,658 people held up for more than two hours last month followed by Indigo Airlines, which recorded 23,359 such passengers.

Industry experts, however, claimed that some airlines had made changes in their flight schedule to become fog-ready.

SpiceJet Airlines, for instance, has altered its flight schedule in fog-affected cities such as Varanasi, Chandigarh and Amritsar. The airline has advanced the take-off timings of late night flights and pushed back the schedules for early morning departures.

“Disruptions depend on the severity of fog and natural conditions as these can hardly be controlled. So we are looking forward to implementing a well-secured plan so as to avoid any kind of compromise in customer convenience,” said GP Gupta, chief administrative officer and accountable manager, SpiceJet Airlines.

First Published: Dec 31, 2015 17:31 IST