Low visibility procedures were in place at Delhi airport for over seven hours
`There has hardly been any improvement in the fog situation compared to last year'About 15 Delhi-bound trains were delayed due to dense fog
NEW DELHI: Making a rare appearance in March, thick fog played havoc with early morning flights and train schedules in the Capital on Friday. With runway visibility range dropping to 75 metres at 2 a.m., low visibility procedures were in place at Delhi airport for over seven hours causing diversion of 20 flights and delaying many more.
"Fifty flights operated during this period, which included arrival and departure of 28 domestic and 22 international aircraft. Low visibility procedures were in place till after 9 a.m. Simultaneous use of both runways was started at 9-55 a.m., to clear the backlog,'' said an airport official.
While fog may have sent early morning flight schedules off gear on Friday, airlines claimed that they battle delays everyday due to air congestion.
"There has hardly been any improvement in the fog situation compared with last year. The number of aircraft has increased and there is no change in infrastructure. About 80 flights are delayed everyday for 35 minutes because one runway is closed down for maintenance for four hours from 12 noon,'' said SpiceJet spokesperson Ajay Jasra, adding that low-frill airlines lose Rs.2.5 lakh a day due to air traffic congestion.
One of the most highly rated airlines in terms of service -- Jet Airways -- puts its losses this winter at Rs.6 crore. The number of flights that were cancelled during the season is 135, while there were 54 diversions.
However, despite infrastructure constraints and the traffic-jams in the air, things have improved, experts claim. With the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) having taken measures to battle the weather gods, there may have been delays during the winter, but the situation has become better.
"The weather gods were kinder to us this year. The number of days of fog was much less this time. Many airlines have trained their pilots in CAT III, which helped. An exercise was carried out in consultation with airlines and flights were rescheduled or cancelled during December 31 to January 31, depending on their availability of trained pilots,'' said a DGCA official.
With the travel boom too good to be true in India -- domestic air traffic is growing at 47 per cent per year and international at 17 per cent -- hiccups are only natural, claim aviation experts.
"Another 12 to 18 months may be tough, but things will improve after that. By 2009 India will have world-class airports. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has already announced modernisation of 35 airports,'' said Kapil Kaul, CEO, Indian Subcontinent and Middle East, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
Meanwhile, on the ground about 15 Delhi-bound trains were delayed due to dense fog.
"There was no cancellation except for the New Delhi Gomti Express that runs between New Delhi and Lucknow. This was because the train arrived in late in Delhi. Seven trains were also rescheduled,'' said a Northern Railway spokesperson.