Mamata's late flight sparks 'early' row

Calcutta: An IndiGo flight from Bagdogra with Mamata Banerjee on board flew over Calcutta for 19 minutes before its landing in the city, which seemed to have made the chief minister unhappy.

Calcutta airport officials alleged that the airline had kept the flight duration more than the actual time to ensure on time performance (OTP) and since the aircraft had entered the city's sky earlier than scheduled, it was caught in a congestion caused by the maintenance of the main runway.

"As the flight arrived early and its standard arrival time was later, the flight was kept on the sequence behind other flights," said an official.

IndiGo's 6E 534 had taken off from Bagdogra at 4.35pm and its scheduled arrival time was 5.45pm in Calcutta.

After landing in Calcutta around 6pm, Mamata was livid. It delayed her meeting with Hardik Patel, the mass movement leader of the Patidar community in Gujarat, by around 20 minutes.

"The flight took off before time from Bagdogra, but it got delayed because it was not getting landing slot. This is strange.... You get delayed by more than half an hour in an 55-minute flight," Mamata was heard telling her aides.

"I had a meeting lined up, but now I am going to be late for it," she squirmed.

Atul Dixit, the director of the Calcutta airport, said the flight had landed at 5.49 pm. "The delay was because main runway was under maintenance and secondary runway was operational," said Dixit.

IndiGo denied the charges and said there was a four-minute minute delay caused by the runway maintenance.

"Due to scheduled NOTAM (notice to airman) at Kolkata airport, the primary runway was closed. This led to air traffic congestion in Kolkata air space. Consequently, IndiGo flight 6E-534 IXB-CCU faced a minor delay of 4 minutes only," the airline said in a statement.

When the flight took off from Bagdogra, the crew had announced that it was a "before time" departure. The captain had, however, warned in a mid-air announcement that as there was heavy traffic in Calcutta airport, the flight could be delayed.

The airport sources said the actual average flying time between Calcutta and Bagdogra is 50 minutes, but IndiGo has kept it at 1 hour and 10 minutes. According to the sources, the flight had reached Calcutta's sky at 5.30pm and was ninth in the sequence.

The minimum lateral separation between two consecutive flights landing on the main runway has to be seven nautical miles or 12.964km. It means when a flight touches down, the next in line to land has to be at least 7 nautical miles away in the air to prevent possible collision.


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