Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bhogi smog: 42 flights delayed, 40 cancelled

Chennai: Travel plans of thousands of people went awry on Saturday as smog triggered by Bhogi bonfires reduced visibility and affected flights and train services.
At the airport, where visibility was less than 50 metres, 16 flights, including nine international services, were diverted to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Trichy and Coimbatore. Services resumed at 9.10am, but delays continued throughout the day.
Domestic flights could not leave Chennai airport till 9am, while many incoming ones were delayed at places like Kochi and Bengaluru as clearance was not given.
Though there were 73 departures and 45arrivals slotted between 3am and 9.10am, most flights departed only after 11am as arriving flights needed priority. Air congestion led to further delays that lasted between three hours and six hours through the day.
While an IndiGo flight from Dubai, an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah, a Gulf Air plane from Bahrain and an Air India aircraft from Dubai were diverted to Bengaluru, a British Airways flight from London, an Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi, SpiceJet flights from Pune and Colombo and a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai flew to Hyderabad. A Sri Lankan flight from Colombo returned midway. An Air Australia flight from St Denis and a Batik Air flight from KL were diverted to Trichy. An Airport Authority of India official said smog this year was severe.

"After 3am, visibility began to dip and stayed low till 9am. Usually, smog lifts by 7.30am or 8am. This year it stretched till 9am," the AAI official said. A senior pilot said AAI authorities should issue a notam (notice to airmen) to expect smog or delays before Bhogi. "This will help foreign airlines to take precautions and carry more fuel for diversions and to remain on hold. It is usual to have mist in Chennai in January but foreign pilots may not know about the custom followed on the festival day. A met report may not forecast smog."
However, fog warnings don't often lead to airlines rescheduling flights as they hope visibility will improve soon.
14/01/18 Times of India