Calcutta, Oct. 19: At least 38 passengers missed their flights out of Calcutta this afternoon because of a snarl on VIP road triggered by the breakdown of a truck on the adjacent Jessore Road and made worse by the lack of policing.
The Bidhannagar city police had drawn up a deployment plan to manage traffic on the eve of the Pujas but they had missed the potential risk in ignoring the heavy airport-bound afternoon traffic.
Saturday, when the holiday season kicks off with full vigour, is likely to see a greater rush of fliers than Friday and passengers would do better by leaving home hours in advance. Around 40 planes fly from Calcutta between 4pm and 6pm, making traffic from the city heavy during the afternoon.
After the brick-laden truck stopped in the middle of the road near airport’s gate No. “2½” at 1.30pm, traffic slowly went haywire. Between 3.45pm and 5.20pm, the number of no-shows on subsequent flights stumped airlines.
Silver Spring resident S. Parekh had reached Haldiram’s about an hour before her 5.20pm flight to Hyderabad. It took her 45 minutes to cover the next 2km. When she reached the airport at 5.10pm, boarding was over.
“I had planned the trip two months ago to meet my cousins who have come down from London. The airline officials asked me to come down early in the morning again and try my luck if they can accommodate me on a flight. But it is very uncertain,” said Parekh.
She has been told to reach the airport tomorrow “as early as possible”. Parekh plans to leave home around 4 in the morning.
Today, the 3.45pm Calcutta-Ahmedabad IndiGo flight had four no-shows; the 3.55pm Calcutta-Chennai Jet Airways flight had five; the 4.05pm Calcutta-Delhi IndiGo flight had 15; the 5.05pm Calcutta-Hyderabad IndiGo flight had four; and the 5.20pm Calcutta-Hyderabad SpiceJet flight had 10.
At the international terminal, a group of six passengers had reported late to board their Dubai-bound flight. “However, they were allowed to board after seeking special permission from the authorities,” said an airport official.
The domestic passengers were not as lucky. A senior official of SpiceJet said that it was difficult to accommodate the passengers missing their flights in another plane since all the flights were running full at this time.
Airlines have varying policies on compensating no-show passengers. Most offer seats on other flights but that is often not possible in peak season.
“The rule is to close the check-in counter at least 45 minutes before departure. But the rule had to be relaxed today,” said an airport official.
The early surge of revellers at pandals lining VIP Road made matters worse. Many passengers walked the last mile to the terminal.
“We did not expect such crowds on Panchami afternoon. People these days do not wait for the Pujas to actually begin on Sashthi. They start visiting pandals the moment they are inaugurated. We will make necessary arrangements from tomorrow,” said Pranab Kumar, the deputy commissioner of traffic, Bidhannagar city police.