Traffic snarls on VIP Road are delaying take-offs at Calcutta airport with stranded passengers frantically calling check-in counters to plead for time and even aircraft crew reporting late for duty.
Pilot Naresh Trivedi (name changed), scheduled to commandeer a private airline’s Airbus A320 to Mumbai last weekend, entered the cockpit around 25 minutes late after being caught in snarls twice along the 8km stretch from Ultadanga to the airport. “It was so embarrassing to see the flight ready for take-off except that I wasn’t in the cockpit,” said Naresh.
Vijay Matta, the chairman of the Airlines Operators’ Committee, confirmed that bottleneck stretches like Ultadanga bridge, Lake Town, Kestopur and Baguiati were regularly causing flight delays. “Fliers are often forced to get off cars and walk. Flight crew are being frequently held up,” he said.
A plane has no choice but to wait for its pilot but how do passengers convince airlines to stretch timings? “I managed to board a Jet Airways flight recently by calling the airline from my car to request them to keep the check-in counter open for a few extra minutes. Luckily for me, they obliged,” said businessman V. Mahesh.
A Mumbai-bound flight of the same airline, however, left without Mahesh when he was again late for check-in last week because of traffic.
Almost every airline has been receiving written requests from passengers who have missed flights not to deduct money for ticket cancellations triggered by snarls.
Frequent flier Rajat Dalmiya said given a choice, he wouldn’t take VIP Road. “I was to catch a flight to Singapore and thought that Rajarhat wouldn’t be safe at night. So I took VIP Road, only to curse myself when I got stuck in a snarl.”
Capt. Sarvesh Gupta of Jet Airways said traffic management on VIP Road was amateurish. “Untrained volunteers compound the chaos,” he added.
Police blame a railway overbridge being built in Barrackpore, 25km away, for the snarls. “Vehicles bound for BT Road are being diverted to Jessore Road and VIP Road. Both roads are handling 30 per cent more traffic than they are capable of,” said Rahul Srivastava, the superintendent of North 24-Parganas police.
The district administration, which held a meeting on Tuesday to find a solution, has decided to ban goods vehicles from entering Jessore Road from Barasat between 9am and 9pm.