Fog causes worst-ever flight delays at KIA

Operations suspended for three hours

Fog causes worst-ever flight delays at KIA

A thick fog that blanketed the city on Sunday morning caused the worst-ever delay in flight operations at the Kempegowda International Airport.

Visibility shrunk to just 250 metres in the morning, prompting the airport to suspend operations for three hours. More than 100 flights were hit.

Before operations could resume at 9 am, nine flights were cancelled and 96 delayed. Eight departing flights were among the cancelled — six of them were IndiGo and one each of Jet Airways and AirAsia. One AirAsia flight cancelled its arrival.

Seventy flights slated for departure were delayed, while 26 deferred their arrival. Five flights were diverted to Chennai, two of which were cargo flights from Blue Dart and three were passenger aircraft.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has set the runway visual range (RVR) as 400 m for flights taking off from an airport and 550 m for those landing.

Though it does not specify any temperature limits, airlines are finding it harder to operate in places with sub-zero conditions due to frost or thick ice sheets on the runway.

Though KIA experienced seven delays this year, none of them were beyond an hour. “Fog is a big obstacle in winter and it invariably results in delays and diversions,” said a spokesperson for BIAL, the company that manages operations at KIA.

During the onset of winter last year (2016-17), there were 17 delays at KIA. The fog starts in November and lasts till late February.

The delay has stranded several passengers as it happened during the peak hour. KIA handles 70,000 passengers a day and peaks between 6 am and 10 am and 5 pm and
9 pm. “My early morning business meeting had been put off by an hour and a half,” a passenger flying with IndiGo to Guwahati said.

The hourly runway capacity in winter 2017 is 38 Air Traffic Movements (ATMs) and is close to 4,600 in a week.

In summer this year, the airport clocked 526 ATMs a day on an average and its planned average domestic movement during winter is slated at 577 ATMs.

DGCA figures revealed that KIA handled 18,22,596 flyers in October. The airport’s On-Time Performance (OTP) had dropped that month, as none of the airlines could touch 90% OTP. Only SpiceJet and IndiGo had clocked 87.1% OTP.

The DGCA noted that 4% delays in October that happened nationally were due to issues at the airport, while there were 63% reactionary delays.

The aviation regulator also said 1,02,100 passengers were hit by delays in October that lasted for more than two hours. Delays by IndiGo alone had affected 44,378 flyers.

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