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Heat factor keeps hundreds off flight

The heat is in the air, literally.

Hundreds of fliers at Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport on Sunday were a harried lot after IndiGo and GoAir cancelled their pre-booked tickets and either refunded or adjusted them in other flights following a show-cause notice served on them by Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Taking a strict stand on the load penalty factor at Patna airport a situation when at least 20 per cent seats in the aircraft are required to be left unoccupied due to technical reasons to fly safely under short runway and high temperature conditions the civil aviation regulator had on Friday served a show-cause notice on the two airlines for violating the norms here.

The DGCA had asked the two airlines to reduce the passenger load in their aircraft by 20 per cent with immediate effect and serve corresponding replies by Saturday. According to sources, the two airlines had served their replies by Saturday evening, which is now under the scrutiny of DGCA.

The airlines also decided to adhere to the load penalty norms and started cancelling the tickets of the passengers exceeding the permissible limit from Sunday morning.

Sources claimed that both the airlines had restricted the number of passengers to 153 against the total seating capacity of 180 in their aircraft. As a result, hundreds of passengers of the two airlines got stranded at the airport for hours and many of them also had scuffle with the airlines staff. Most of such annoyed fliers alleged that the airlines did not give any prior intimation regarding the notice and the resultant cancellation of their tickets.

GoAir has two flights on Patna-Delhi route and one flight each on Patna-Mumbai and Patna-Calcutta route. IndiGo, on the other hand, operates three flights on Patna-New Delhi route, two flights on Patna-Mumbai route and one flight on Patna-Calcutta route. These flights have further connectivity to other cities including Ranchi, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Chennai and others. The sources claimed that around 27 tickets in each of these flights were cancelled on Sunday, making around 270 (27x 10) passengers in total, who could not travel on their pre-booked tickets. GoAir Station manager Manmohan Tiwari and his IndiGo counterpart Rupesh could not be contacted, as they were busy handling the stranded passengers till late on Sunday evening.

I am taking two doctors from Patna to a medical conference in Kuala Lumpur, for which we have a connecting ticket from New Delhi at 11.30 on Sunday night. However, our ticket on IndiGo flight-6E 191 scheduled to depart at 2.30pm from Patna has been cancelled and we are asked to go in one of their flights on Monday. This is completely callous attitude on the part of the airline as they should have made some alternative arrangement for those having connecting flights, said Manoj Singh, regional manager of a pharmaceutical firm.

The sources said before issuing the show-cause notice, the DGCA had carried out real-time checks on their flights for around a fortnight and found they had been violating load penalty norms.

Under this norm, the operators have to reduce the weight of planes by leaving some seats vacant or offload cargo items so that necessary engine thrust is available for smooth take-off when the temperature is high, usually 40 degrees Celsius or above.

The load penalty factor plays a major role at Patna because of its short runway. Against the total runway length of 2,286m (7,500 feet), only 1,954m (6409 feet) remains available at the time of take-off because of location constraint of the airport.