NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is sitting on a proposal to upgrade the northern region airports for over a year now. The need for this is being felt all the more now when more than 200 flights are getting affected at the Delhi airport on a daily basis during the fog season.
Just in January alone, over 155 cancellations and over 1,107 delays of flights took place in the first 15 days, hinting at an urgent need to upgrade airports in the northern region.
When the fog hit Delhi last year between December 2010 and January 2011, hundreds of flights got delayed, diverted and cancelled on a daily basis—not only because of single runway operations in Delhi but also due to the fact that flights that had to divert had very few options in the vicinity. Congestion was so much that flights headed to Delhi were being diverted to Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. “Facilities for landing aircraft in smaller airports near Delhi were few. These airports didn’t have enough parking bays to take the load of diverted flights,” an airport official familiar with the foggy moments said.
It was in this scenario that the civil aviation ministry officials and the aviation regulator DGCA woke up to the fact that something needed to be done to avoid such situations in the coming seasons. Not only was the Delhi airport supposed to buck up its operations but also feedback was sought to address the issues. “What we needed was a contingency plan for flight diversions. Depending on facilities available like runway capacity to handle wide-body, landing aids and lights, night landing facility, parking bays etc at each of the airports, a list of airports was suggested and identified for upgrade. However, very little has been done so far even after a year of our suggestions,” the airport official said.
“Airports around Delhi are not CAT-III or even CAT-II equipped. Amritsar, Jaipur and Patna are affected by fog as much as Delhi but are only CAT-I,” a Kingfisher official said. “This means that flights to these destinations can’t depart until weather improves which is in many cases only late noon, throwing all schedules in a mess,” he added.
In addition, even other airports like Bangalore, Pune and Bhubaneswar are affected by fog which causes a chain of delays, the airline official said.
Anticipating these fog delays, airlines have also changed their schedules and in many cases cancelled flights to fog-hit airports. “In many cases, we had to divert to as far as Mumbai which was also chock-a-block and hence airports in south had to be considered,” an official from a foreign airline said.