Passengers stranded at Bagdogra airport on Tuesday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Jan. 7: Twelve Bagdogra-bound flights, among them five from Calcutta, were cancelled today because of heavy fog in Siliguri.
Hundreds of passengers from Calcutta were stranded as a Jet Airways flight returned to the city after failing to land at Bagdogra. A GoAir flight was diverted to Guwahati, said airport sources.
Other flights, including those of IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet were also cancelled.
India Meteorological Department today said similar foggy conditions would prevail for at least the next 24 hours in sub-Himalayan Bengal. “Moderate to dense fog reducing surface visibility less than 200m may occur at few places over sub-Himalayan Bengal and Bihar during the next 24 hours,” a Met official said.
The minimum visibility required for an aircraft to land at Bagdogra airport is 1,200m, but officials said that today it was lower than that. The airport connects the rest of the country to tourist destinations in north Bengal and Sikkim.
“Due to poor visibility, which came down below the average visibility of 1,200m, 12 flights were cancelled today. About 1,150 passengers were supposed to take these flights,” said K.K. Bhowmik, the director of Bagdogra airport said.
A Druk Air flight, from Paro in Bhutan and on way to Bangkok, was the only aircraft to land today, he said. According to airport sources, the Druk Air flight landed at 2.20pm, when the weather improved briefly and departed for Bangkok at 3.44pm.
The conditions deteriorated after 1pm and a snag in a surveillance radar made conditions worse, said Bagdogra airport sources.
From Calcutta, a Jet Airways flight with 125 passengers took off around 1pm but returned to Calcutta at 3.05pm.
“The plane hovered for 30 minutes before the pilot announced that the flight couldn’t land because there was a problem with the radar,” said Taib Shalom, a passenger who came to Calcutta from Mumbai on his way to Bagdogra.
Airline sources said passengers were given refunds and those who wanted to go on Wednesday, were rebooked.
“We were informed that the flight couldn’t land because of poor visibility and so it was cancelled from Calcutta,” said a spokesperson of Air India.
At Bagdogra, passengers faced severe inconvenience.
Among the worried faces was P.Wangdi, a resident of Darjeeling who was scheduled to go to Chennai via Calcutta for his wife’s treatment.
“I was going to Chennai with my wife for her treatment. I am supposed to get a connecting flight from Calcutta this evening for Chennai, which is scheduled to leave by 5.55pm. I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow morning at 10am. But because of the disruption in the journey, I may not keep the appointment and have no idea when I can get the next appointment from the doctor,” Wangdi said.
A tourist from Norway who identified himself as Torgunrud said he came down from Darjeeling this afternoon with six of his family, but failed to go to the capital after the flights got cancelled today.
“We were informed at the airport that flights have been cancelled and we have to stay here today. Nobody has informed us about any alternative arrangement for our accommodation or transport so far. We are supposed to reach Delhi where we were going to stay for another three days. But because of bad weather, flights will not operate today and I have to arrange for our accommodation,” the Norwegian said.