Sunday, May 05, 2019

Kolkata airport reopens after 17 hours but delayed flights, high rates rankle flyers

Kolkata: When cyclone Fani bypassed Kolkata early on Saturday, it spared the city significant damage, except at the airport, where it played havoc with flight schedules.
“The airport was shut from 3pm on Friday for 17 hours as a precautionary measure. It resumed operations from 8am on Saturday,” said Kolkata airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee. The first flight to take off from here on Saturday was Air India AI 743 to Agartala at 9.57am. GoAir flight G8 101 from Delhi was the first one to land around 10.10am.
The shutdown led to a number of delays and cancellation of 44 flights, including eight international ones. A Qatar flight was delayed by 13 hours, a Cathay Dragon flight by10 hours and an Emirates flight by four hours.
Anticipating damage to the infrastructure at the airport, IndiGo Airlines, which operates nearly half the 222 flights from Kolkata daily, had announced the suspension of all flights on Saturday well in advance. Though the airport resumed operations on Tuesday morning after an inspection revealed no damage, IndiGo flights stayed grounded, leading to confusion among flyers who take the 104 flights the airline operates daily. “The skies over Kolkata are clear and airport officials are tweeting that operations have resumed. But customer care executives at IndiGo are insisting the airport will reopen only on Sunday,” a passenger, T M Sreekanth, tweeted in the morning.
It was only around 3.30pm that IndiGo resumed operations from Kolkata. An airline source said the decision to withdraw the flights was taken on Thursday, when DGCA announced Kolkata airport would remain shut till 6pm on Saturday. “When the initial shutdown decision was announced, we decided to give Saturday a miss as suddenly resuming flight so late in the day would have been a logistic nightmare. But the situation continued to evolve as cyclone Fani changed speed and course. Even till late on Friday, there was no clarity on the potential damage it could cause at the airport and when operations could resume. It is only on Saturday morning, when an allclear was signalled, that the logistics team at the back-end got working,” an official said. Other airlines, too, cancelled some flights on Saturday.
05/05/19 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India