CHENNAI: Passengers who were booked to fly to various destinations across the country on SpiceJet’s ‘few but faithful’ network, had a bit of a start when they reached the airport on Tuesday. One look at the flight information screen made them see Red. A lot of it. Of the 16 SpiceJet flights that were due to arrive and depart during the morning rush, all of them had the word ‘DELAYED’ written in red next to it. Estimated Time of Arrival/Departure was left blank.
Coming good on the threat that they have been making for the past few weeks, oil companies, including Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), put the stranglehold on the airline since midnight - refusing to refuel their plane with Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) to operate the planes on Tuesday. “While travelling from Chennai we like to arrive early and check in two hours before the flight to beat the rush, but for a change there was no rush,” said A Swaminathan, who was flying to Bangalore. Till 2 pm on Tuesday, only five SpiceJet planes had taken to the skies out of an operating fleet of 37, as the fuel crisis dragged on at airports across the country. Though no plane had parked overnight at Chennai, the lack of incoming flights meant that there were literally no departures on Tuesday.
Ironically, there was little chaos or shouting from passengers - all the bad news about SpiceJet had semi-prepared them, as they stood at the airline’s counter outside, hoping to find an alternative.
Apparently, the ‘delay’ in flights had been communicated to passengers by text two hours before the start of operations, so a good number of them stayed away. Sadly, most of the others who landed up at the airport had a day-long wait ahead as not one aircraft landed at Chennai till 1.45 pm - ensuring that not a single SpiceJet flight left the airport. “The only flight that has departed was SG 312 that clubbed two Delhi flight passengers and had enough fuel to leave for the capital at 2.30 pm. We have been informed that this issue with the fuel companies is being resolved at airports, but BPCL has informed us that they will not be fuelling any planes at Chennai,” said an AAI official. SpiceJet’s spokespersons who are keeping mum as the muck hit the ceiling hinted that some ‘bad news’ was around the corner.
Heightened scenes of chaos were witnessed at the Chennai Airport on Tuesday evening, as close to 150 passengers thronged the airline’s office and demanded refunds. After trying to assuage people by asking them to be patient and wait for it to come to their accounts directly. The Aviation Ministry has asked Public Sector Oil Companies to give a credit line for 15 days, explaining that the airline had managed to pay off ATF debts save for `14 crore, as on Tuesday morning.