NEW DELHI: Hundreds of passengers had a harrowing time at Delhi airport on Christmas morning as over 60 flights in and out of the Capital were delayed because of dense fog. Unofficial sources said almost all the morning flights were badly affected and the backlog continued till late in the evening.
While Delhi International Airport (Private) Limited said only 12 flights were diverted to other airports like Jaipur, Air Traffic Control sources said there were 15 to 20 such diversions.
The fog compelled implementation of Low Visibility Procedures (LVP) on the runway for well over four hours leading to large-scale congestion. The backlog of flights was so heavy that even though visibility improved considerably by noon, the flight schedule was affected till about 7-30 in the evening.
The safeguard procedure was initiated at 6 in the morning when the Runway Visual Range was 1,200 metres, LVP was enforced from 7-16 a.m. and lifted at 11-08 a.m. when the visibility became around 1,200 metres. The safeguard procedures were later terminated at 11-55 a.m.
At 12 noon, the visibility was about 1,750 metres, while in the evening it was about 3,000 metres.
“When visibility is normal and twin use of runways is being carried out we can handle about 36 arrivals and departures in an hour, which falls to 20 in case of LVP. The working at Air Traffic Control becomes slow as we are using only one runway. The minimum separation time between two take-offs is three minutes but in case of LVP, even that is increased to five minutes at times. There is almost 50 per cent of reduction in the operations during fog,” ATC sources said.
According to a DIAL spokesperson, 63 flights were operated during the time the LVP was implemented and only the primary runway, which is CAT-III compliant, was in use.
“However, when visibility became normal, both the runways were used as per the instructions given to them for exclusive use from Tuesday onward. The primary runway was used for take-offs, while the secondary runway was exclusively for landings,” added the spokesperson.
No flights cancelled
Though according to DIAL no flights were cancelled, Deccan officials claimed that as many as 15 of their flights were cancelled owing to congestion at the airport and “watch-hour constraints”.
“About 25 of our flights were delayed by one to four hours and 15 were cancelled. Apart from the congestion, the cancellation was also because there are a lot of sectors like Vizag and Chandigarh where we can’t land after a certain time. So by the time the aircraft from Delhi got the permission to take off, it was too late to start for their destinations,” said a Deccan spokesperson.
Air India had four domestic and three international delays, while nine SpiceJet flights were delayed and Go Air faced three delays.
The number of delays for Kingfisher and Jet Airways was four and ten, respectively.
No other carrier had to cancel any flights, though there were some diversions.
According to Meteorological Department officials at the airport, there could be some bad news for Wednesday morning fliers as well.
“At around 5 early morning on Wednesday, visibility could be as low as 400 metres,” cautioned an official.
Meanwhile, around a dozen trains coming to Delhi were delayed on Tuesday morning. However, there was no cancellation or rescheduling.
Drama at Ahmedabad airport
PTI reports from Ahmedabad: High drama was witnessed at Ahmedabad airport on Tuesday when nearly a hundred passengers of a Delhi-bound Air India flight from Mumbai, diverted here because of fog in the national Capital, refused to disembark after the pilot declined to fly the plane citing duty-hour limitations.
The flight, which left Mumbai early in the morning, circled over Delhi airport and, when it could not land, was diverted to Ahmedabad where it landed around 11 a.m.
As the passengers were left stranded at Ahmedabad airport and waited for the weather in Delhi to clear, they refused to de-board the plane after the pilot refused to fly the aircraft saying the crew’s duty hour was over.
Efforts were made to put up the passengers in a hotel but that did not work out, leaving many of them angry.
An alternative crew was sent to Ahmedabad by a Jet Airways flight which then took the Air India plane to Delhi at 4 p.m.
Asked whether the pilots had refused to fly the plane in Ahmedabad, Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava said: “We cannot allow a fatigued pilot to operate a flight.”