The Telegraph
Tuesday , December 11 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fliers wait, fog keeps all flights off

Siliguri, Dec. 10: All seven flights to Bagdogra were cancelled today at their cities of origin, the second time in two days that planes could not land because of fog, keeping around 800 out-bound travellers stranded.

Airport officials could not recall such severe landing problems for two consecutive days in recent years.

Yesterday, five of eight flights scheduled to land at Bagdogra could not do so. Today’s seven planes were to fly in from Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati.

The flights were of SpiceJet, Jet Airways, Air India and GoAir. “The flights were supposed to come from Delhi, Guwahati and Calcutta and then depart for Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai and Pune. But the in-bound flights were cancelled at their points of origin because of poor visibility,” an airport source said.

Weather experts said the fog that brought visibility down to 500m on the runway was caused by the passing of a western disturbance from sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim over to Assam. The fog was likely to hang over Siliguri and surrounding areas for the next 24 hours, they said.

“A western disturbance is prevailing over the region for the past two days and it is crossing over to Assam from sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim. The current surface visibility because of the fog is less than 500m and we can expect the conditions to persist for the next 24 hours,” said G.N. Raha, the in-charge of the Meteorological Centre in Gangtok.

Airport sources said the surface visibility stipulated for planes to land and take-off is 2.8km.

The weather official warned that another western disturbance was approaching the region from Jammu and Kashmir which would cause a further dip in temperature.

“We can expect another western disturbance after two days as there is one currently over Jammu and Kashmir and it is slowly approaching sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim. It will cause a further dip in temperature,” Raha said.

It is not clear if this disturbance too would cause heavy fog and again keep flights from landing at Bagdogra.

K.K. Bhowmik, the director of the airport, said: “We have had to cancel flights for the second day today because of poor visibility. Around 800 out-bound passengers were affected by the cancellations.”

The airport does not have an instrumental landing system (ILS) which helps planes land and take off at night and in poor visibility conditions.

The SpiceJet flights to Delhi were supposed to depart at 1pm and 2pm and the Chennai-bound flight of the same airline was scheduled to take off at 3.25pm.

A Delhi-bound Jet Airways flight was supposed to take off at 2.20pm and that for Calcutta at 1pm.

The Delhi-bound Air India flight was supposed to take off at 2.05pm and the Pune-bound GoAir flight was scheduled to depart at 3.05pm.

Passengers had no option but to cancel their flights or postpone their journey.

Some of the passengers like Aman Goyal had to cancel their tickets for the second day today. He and his family of five were supposed to leave by the SpiceJet flight for Delhi yesterday. “We had to cancel our journey for the second day today. Fortunately, we have a house in Siliguri and lodging is not a problem,” Goyal said.