Over 600 flights delayed, 76 cancelled at Delhi airport due to season’s worst fog

Chennai saw 47 flight cancellations due to smoke from Bhogi bonfires as well as the cascading impact of Delhi’s weather across airline networks

January 14, 2024 09:53 am | Updated 11:19 pm IST - New Delhi

A dense blanket of fog enveloped Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Sunday. Reportedly several flight operations got delayed at Delhi airport due to low visibility.

A dense blanket of fog enveloped Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Sunday. Reportedly several flight operations got delayed at Delhi airport due to low visibility. | Photo Credit: ANI

As the season’s worst fog enveloped the northern parts of the country, nearly 600 flights were delayed and 76 cancelled at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport resulting in a cascading effect across most airports in the country.

At Delhi airport, “visibility ranged between zero and 50 metres for 10 hours between 0030 hours and 1130 hours. This was the season’s worst fog. The last such spell was seen in December 2019,” the India Meteorological Department’s senior scientist R.K. Jenamani told The Hindu. He added that there was dense fog across northern India, including at Amritsar, Pathankot, Jammu, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, and Patna.

As a result, between 5 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, 245 inbound flights were delayed and 14 others cancelled, while 355 outbound flights were delayed and 62 were cancelled, according to flight tracking website Flightradar 24.

North India shivers under cold wave as mercury drops | Video Credit: ANI

Significant delays

There were no departures from IGI airport till 11 a.m. as the visibility was below the minimum level of 125 metres.

Delhi has only two CAT IIIB-compliant runways, which provide precision instrument landing. One of the runways is shut for re-carpeting, exacerbating the impact of the fog.

According to IGI airport sources, 10 flights were also diverted to Jaipur as airlines had not rostered crew trained for low-visibility operations.

With departures halted and parking bays packed with outbound aircraft, some flights that were given the green flag to land waited for over two hours to be assigned a parking bay to allow passengers to deboard. This included an Air India flight from Frankfurt to Delhi and a Virgin Atlantic flight from London. 

Delays ranging from five to eight hours were common throughout the day. “Was stuck in @airindia AI514 Delhi to Bengaluru for 9 hours from 2:30 a.m. to morning 11:30 a.m. Flight didn’t take off due to dense fog. After other flights started operations, this flight didn’t takeoff because captain duty was over. No explanations. Total chaos & all made to deplane,” wrote a Dr. Senthilkumar. S on X.

Also Read | Why did North India fog so heavily last week? | Explained 

Cascading effect

The mayhem caused at Delhi airport, which witnesses the highest number of passengers in the country, spilled over to most airports in the country.

All flights at Jammu were hit, resulting in eight being delayed and seven cancelled.

In Chennai, 47 flights were cancelled because of the cascading impact on various airlines’ route networks, according to an official of the Airports Authority of India. These included inbound and outbound flights from across the country, including Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Cochin, and Coimbatore, among others. 

Also Read | Low visibility in northern States, affects affects normal life, flight operations

Bhogi smoke impact

Early in the morning, flights were also impacted because of low visibility in Chennai between 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. due to the smoke from bonfires lit for Bhogi, a festival on the eve of Pongal. This resulted in “five to six flights” being diverted to Hyderabad, the previously quoted AAI official said.

At Kolkata airport, a total of 164 flights were affected till 8 p.m., including 45 flights hit by poor visibility in the city itself, while the remaining flights were affected due to delays caused at other airports. There were also 29 cancellations.

According to the IMD’s website, Delhi sees its highest number of fog days in January with an average of 21.6 days affected, as compared to 19.2 days in December and 12.3 days in November. 

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