A hand-written notice at Delhi airport on Sunday. (AP)
Dec. 26: Fog over Delhi airport ravaged airline schedules across India today and prompted the government to relax the rules about takeoff in reduced visibility.
Thirty-eight flights were cancelled and 42, including 14 international flights, were diverted while most other flights to or from the capital were delayed by two to five hours, airport sources said.
Passengers troubles began last night, with IndiGos Calcutta-Delhi flight forced to return with its 180 passengers, unable to land in the capital. Seven Delhi-bound flights were delayed from Calcutta this morning. ( )
The Met department has predicted heavy fog in Delhi for the next few days.
The Centre today lowered the permissible visibility for takeoffs by large aircraft from 175m to 150m, and from 150m to 125m for smaller planes. This will reduce delays without endangering safety, which remains paramount, civil aviation secretary S.N.A. Zaidi said after a meeting with airlines, weather officials, airport authorities and the directorate-general of civil aviation.
Under the new rules, airlines will not allow passengers to board till visibility has reached 125m.
The Centres move comes amid news that the UK government is planning legislation to be able to fine airports that fail to prepare adequately for adverse weather a subject that could be relevant to India at a time private airports are coming up in the country.
Britains decision was prompted by the Heathrow airport closing its runways last week during the pre-Christmas snow chaos, the Sunday Times reported. The Spanish-owned British Airport Authority, which runs Heathrow, apparently did not spend enough on anti-snow machinery this year and lacked adequate de-icer stocks, the report said.
This morning, no flights took off or landed at Delhi for an hour because visibility was below 50m, the minimum required for landing even if an aircraft is equipped with the category 3B instrument landing system and pilots trained in it.
Airlines cancelled flights to Lucknow, Jaipur, Mumbai, Leh, Amritsar, Patna, Chandigarh, Goa and Srinagar.
For Rohit Kher, flying from Coimbatore to Bhubaneswar after changing flights in Delhi, the delay was a surprise as he got no text message about it from the airline. But despite being delayed for several hours, he considers himself lucky. His friends, who had started from Coimbatore on Christmas morning, were diverted to Jaipur and reached Delhi late last night.