Sunday, December 17, 2017

How IndiGo with 149 aircraft & 47 destinations fights fog

New Delhi: Things can be tricky for airlines operating out of the Seikh Ul Alam International Airport in Srinagar. The weather can turn from bad to worse very quickly. Last Thursday was one such day. While the weather department informed the airlines that visibility will improve later in the day, but till 11 AM things looked bleak. For the country’s largest airline IndiGo, operating out of such gaps in information proves challenging. IndiGo didn’t wait. It cancelled all its flights for the day and informed the passenger through call and SMS.

”We operate flights to eight destinations out of Srinagar, without proper information our passengers would have arrived at the airport which is not very big to handle such a rush, moreover if one of our aircraft is held up there, it delays other sectors as ours is a fully network carriers,” said Tarun Vijh, associate director at operations, control and dispatch unit of IndiGo.

To ensure that the airline can fly through minimal disruption, it has set up at centralised flight operation system in the Gurgaon-based head office from where the team controls everything from flight dispatch to scheduling and meteorology. The team which comprises of around 200 staff crunches real time data to alert pilots and pass advisory to passengers at shortest possible time.
 “Here we try to minimise the impact of weather-related disorders and maintain the punctuality of the fleet,” said Vijh, pointing at a screen which shows the weather forecast for all the 47 stations. “We have set up our own meteorological alert system for accurate real-time data and forecasts even for places we don’t fly to,” says Vijh. This helps the airline to divert aircraft to locations when the need arises. According to him, it just takes around 30 minutes from the time the first weather disruption is reported to the passenger getting informed about it.
IndiGo is the largest airline in India with 149 aircraft and flying to 47 destinations. Having a large fleet and operating out of Delhi has its demerits for IndiGo. The fog that engulfs North India for almost 15 days in the months of December and January has its maximum impact on an airline like  IndiGo, which is based out of New Delhi and operates close to 1,000 flights daily. Delay or diversion of a single aircraft can throw the entire schedule of the day into jeopardy, resulting in more disruptions. “ Maintaining on time performance during winter is a challenge
According to a senior executive of a low-cost carrier, in a market like India, punctuality is something airlines build their brand around. For an average Indian flier, rather than the amenities inside the aircraft, it is the punctuality that matters. He is not ready to shell out for comfort but will select an airline which he hears is disciplined.
The data the meteorologists crunch at OCC is passed on to the fuel monitoring cell, which sits on piles of data to be utilised for giving guidance to pilots. “Basically, here we guide the pilot on load and trim, on how much fuel to carry, how much load to trim,” says Vijh. The amount of fuel becomes significant during congestions at airports caused by fog. Often the pilot does not receive permission to land and has to hover over the airport, and if necessary fly to alternate locations.
17/12/17 Arindam Majumder/Business Standard