At least five international flights diverted on Saturday

With the winter season setting in, flight operations during the early hours at the Cochin International Airport is increasingly becoming an arduous task for the airline companies due to the thick fog on the runway that take form around midnight and intensify at dawn.

On Saturday alone, at least five international flights operating on the Gulf sector were diverted to other airports while a couple of other flights reported a delay in arrival due to poor visibility. The operations finally returned to normality around 9.30 a.m. when the thick fog cleared.

Air India flight IC 596 from Sharjah that was scheduled to land here at 5.05 a.m. and Jet Airways flight 9W 555 from Doha scheduled for 6.05 a.m. were diverted to Thiruvananthapuram. The flights later returned at 9.50 a.m. and 10.35 a.m. respectively.

The other flights diverted to the State capital were Baharain Air flight BN 537 from Baharain and Jet Airways flight 9W 561 from Sharjah. Similarly, Air India Express flight IX 434 from Abu Dhabi at 6.40 a.m. was diverted to the Kozhikode airport.

In addition, a couple of domestic flights, one each from Mumbai and Bangalore, were diverted to Thiruvananthapuram and Coimbatore respectively.

According to the airport officials, the diversions were made considering safety as the visibility levels dipped even to around 600 meters. Further, the service of the Instrumental Landing System (ILS) at the airport was not available as it was destroyed in a powerful lighting on Friday. The system was restored later in the day, they said. On Friday evening also, three flights from various Gulf destinations were diverted to other airports following incessant rain and poor visibility. Meanwhile, the airlines expressed concerns about the recurrence of such episodes, inflicting a severe damage in terms of both goodwill and profits. “In case of such events, the entire brunt of the travelling public is borne by the airlines and no money can be paid for the amount of goodwill lost,'' sources at an airline company said.

According to them, it takes a pilot at least one hour of encircling around the airport before taking a decision to re-route the plane into some other airports, for which a minimum of 3,000 kg jet fuel is required.

The duty hour limitations for the crew further complicate the issue.