New Delhi, Dec. 27: Private airlines were today warned they might be shut out of Delhi next winter unless they equipped their pilots and aircraft to fly in foggy conditions.
“We have told them they should take necessary steps. If they don’t do so, we may consider not giving them flights in and out of Delhi in the next winter schedule,” civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad told reporters after a meeting with the airlines.
Delhi airport has hi-tech gadgetry capable of guiding aircraft even in fog-induced near-zero visibility. But only the state-run airline, Indian (formerly known as Indian Airlines), has trained its pilots to use the facilities and fitted out its aircraft with the necessary instruments.
Private jetliners have balked from this as the training alone costs over Rs 10 lakh per pilot.
Prasad also told the airlines they must look after passengers stranded because of delayed or cancelled flights. Low-cost airlines have been excusing themselves claiming their operational rules are different. Other private airlines, too, have been accused by passengers of being unhelpful as scores of flights were delayed or cancelled in the past few days with thick fog engulfing northern India.
Most airlines have buckled before the government ultimatum. SpiceJet CEO Siddhant Sharma told The Telegraph: “We will be ready with training on the new system for our pilots before next winter.”
Low-cost airlines, too, promised to provide food to stranded passengers but were unsure about overnight accommodation.
Kingfisher promised to keep one aircraft on stand-by at the New Delhi and Mumbai airports so that, if fog delays the arrival of a flight, passengers waiting to catch it for outward journey are not stranded.
Most of the airlines, however, protested to the government representatives that equipping pilots and aircraft to use the new guiding system, installed last year, would mean piling up prohibitive costs.
Prasad told them that if Indian could train 90 pilots for the new facility, called the instrument-landing system category IIIB, others also could afford it. He said they needn’t train every pilot but only those who would fly to north Indian cities during winter.