Poor preparedness

Scores of flights have been cancelled in recent days on account of bad weather. While heavy snowfall has grounded flights in Europe and the US, in India it is poor visibility on account of heavy fog that has disrupted flight schedules. Thousands of travellers have been stranded at various airports. Airport authorities have blamed the bad weather for the disruption of flight schedules. Indeed, fog has reduced visibility to less than 50 metres making it impossible for flights to take off or land despite the availability of state-of-the-art equipment at airports. Aviation authorities are right in not permitting flights to take off in such bad weather as it would mean putting passengers lives’ at risk.

Passengers must avoid putting pressure on airlines. It is unfortunate that their travel plans have gone askance but travel cannot be allowed at the cost of passenger safety.
The chaos at airports and passenger frustration, however, cannot be blamed on bad weather alone. Their discomfort is more a function of inadequate preparedness on the part of airlines and lack of information at airports. Flight disruption during winter is an annual occurrence. Yet little thought appears to have been given to the problem. Airport authorities have acquired latest technology to help pilots land despite poor visibility but it appears that air traffic officials have not been trained adequately to use this technology. Aviation authorities have done well to prevent aircraft not complaint with the CAT III instrument from flying into fog-hit cities except during the daytime but this announcement seems to have come rather late giving airlines little time to re-jig their flights. However, airline companies did little to anticipate and act.

Neither the airlines nor the airport authorities are doing anything to reduce passenger discomfort. Providing advance information on postponement or cancellation of flights would allow thousands of passengers to escape the ordeal of coming to the airport only to wait for hours on end. Passengers are complaining of airlines’ call centres not answering calls and of websites not providing updated information of flight schedules. The situation at airports across the country has been chaotic to say the least. Flight information boards in several airports went blank for several hours over the weekend and airline officials were seen shouting announcements. Passengers pay huge sums to travel during the holiday season. Surely they deserve better.

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