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Air travellers irate over stranding
Published on 3 Jan. 2010 12:42 AM IST
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Thousands of air travellers in India were fuming Saturday with little information forthcoming from the authorities on the status of their flights after dense fog and faults in the landing system at the national capital forced a spate of cancellations and diversions. Nearly 75 domestic flights were delayed and around 10 cancelled as heavy fog engulfed the runways of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, with the problem compounded by a fault in the instrument landing system. Some 20 international flights bound for Delhi were diverted to Mumbai, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Among them were those from London, Jeddah and Toronto that were diverted to Mumbai. “There is absolutely no information about what they intend to do,” said Tonusree Basu, the passenger of a London-New Delhi Air India flight that was diverted to Mumbai, complaining about the lack of communication from the authorities. “We are all very tired. We are up since last evening. But there is no place to sit here. They gave us food coupons. But there is no energy left to face such a long queue,” Basu, who works for a think tank in New Delhi, told IANS. “At least 50 of my copassengers here have missed their connecting flights to Kolkata and other destinations. The least I expected was to be told about the arrangements that were being making. What a start to the New Year!” Seeing the chaos and lack of arrangements at the Mumbai airport, some 75 passengers who were returning from Jeddah raised slogans against Air India and the airport management. They were further irked finding some coffee shops and restaurants shut. In fact, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, too, had to endure a delay, when his flight to New Delhi, which was originally scheduled to leave Chennai at 10 a.m., finally left at 1.30 p.m. According to officials in the capital, the instrument landing system that provides the visibility data to air traffic controllers (ATC) for take-offs and landing during fog could not be used because of a fault in one of the components. “We are trying to sort out the snag,” V. Soma Sundaram, a spokesperson for the Airports Authority of India, told IANS, adding flight operations had begun to resume around 2 p.m. Airline officials put the blame on the airport authorities for their inability to communicate to the passengers about the status of their flights. “We were not getting any feedback from the airports authorities, so unable to update our passengers about when the flights can resume to New Delhi,” said Air India spokesperson Jitender Bhargava. “There was a problem and that’s being sorted out. In situations like these, there is a cascading effect on flights. It will take a few more hours for flights to normalise,” said a spokesman for the Delhi International Airport.

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