The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Long wait, chilled to bone
- Delhi fog grounds 86 flights, passengers recount ordeal at airport

New Delhi, Jan. 2: Shobha Rani Sinha chilled to the bone, but didn’t budge from the departure lounge this evening. Family members ran from one counter to another trying to confirm whether their 1.35 pm Air Sahara flight for Calcutta would take off. The efforts failed.

Sinha was among the hundreds of stranded passengers whose travel plans went into a tailspin today as the fog over Delhi made it tough for planes to land and take off.

“The flight to Calcutta finally took off at 6.30 pm. We did message passengers who gave us their mobile numbers at the time of booking. Some of them might have got it late due to the congestion in cell phone networks,” Air Sahara spokesperson Nita Raina said.

Eighty-six flights were cancelled — 36 arrivals and 50 departures — while 11 were rescheduled. Three were diverted. Airport officials said 134 flights, both domestic and international, arrived and left till this afternoon, but did so under special norms meant for low-visibility conditions.

For others, the wait was full of suspense. “The flight was first postponed to 3 pm, then 4.30 pm and now they say 5.30 pm. Why are they making life so uncertain'” said another woman, her fatigue quickly turning into anger.

An airport official said passengers aren’t willing to use the spacious lounges opposite the departure terminal.

“We built these lounges taking into account the flight cancellations and postponements but people still prefer to throng the departure area. I guess they feel more at peace near the terminal gates,” said Arun Arora, vice-president (corporate communications) of Delhi International Airport Private Ltd, the private company that now runs the airport.

Gunjan Aggarwal had worries beyond the agonising wait. The computer science student at IIT Guwahati was to board a cancelled SpiceJet flight to the Assam capital.

“The airline has assured us of refunds, but that doesn’t solve my problem. Not only do I have to arrange for my train tickets now, I may be also fined for coming late for our second-semester registration programme,” says the 19-year-old, who’d driven from Hissar.

Vamsi Krishna, a doctor who was to board the 4 pm SpiceJet flight, was to leave at 8 pm, but feared visibility would worsen in the evening.

A SpiceJet spokesperson said passengers had been intimated about delays through SMS.“We have given 1,200 food packets during the last three days to passengers whose flights have been delayed as well as milk to infants,” he said.

As the fog came in thick, so did complaints of callousness. “Officials at the airline counters are not very responsive,” said one grounded flier. Virtually, every low-cost airline counter, including that of leader Air Deccan, was besieged with irate passengers.

Calcutta affected

The impact of the Delhi fog was visible on Calcutta airport’s departure screen. Air Sahara and Jet Airways cancelled their morning flight each to Delhi, airport officials said.

Jet put passengers of the cancelled flight on its plane that left for Delhi in the afternoon. SpiceJet and Air Deccan also cancelled their morning flights to the capital.

Flights arriving from Delhi were delayed. In the evening, airport officials said two flights to Delhi — Jet and SpiceJet — had to be cancelled. Others were delayed.

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