With low-visibility conditions significantly disrupting flight operations at the Delhi airport, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday said all stakeholders are working round-the-clock to minimise fog-related impact as well as passenger inconvenience, and asserted that unruly passenger behaviour is unacceptable. A day after poor visibility also forced the Delhi airport to briefly shut down operations of runways, Scindia said aviation regulator DGCA will issue an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to ensure “better communication and facilitation of passengers to minimise discomfort in view of flight cancellations and delays due to adverse weather”. Besides, airport operator DIAL has been directed to expedite the operationalisation of CAT III-enabled fourth runway. When a runway is CAT-III-compliant, flight operations can happen even in low-visibility conditions.
On Sunday, 10 flights were diverted, many were cancelled and delayed, resulting in long waiting hours for passengers at the airport as well as inside aircraft, and many passengers took to social media to express their anguish.
At the airport on Sunday, a passenger assaulted an IndiGo pilot when he was making an announcement of flight delay onboard the aircraft that was to fly to Goa. In a post on X, Scindia said on Sunday, Delhi witnessed unprecedented fog wherein visibility fluctuated for several hours, and at times, dropped to zero between 5 am and 9 am.
According to him, the authorities were compelled to enforce a shutdown of operations for some time even on CAT-III runways. The decision was taken keeping passenger safety in mind, which remains the foremost priority for all in the aviation ecosystem, he added. CAT III runways cannot handle zero-visibility operations.
Emphasising that all stakeholders are working round-the-clock to minimise the fog-related impact, Scindia said that certain steps are also being taken to mitigate the situation in the near future.
Delhi airport has been asked to immediately expedite the operationalisation of the CAT III-enabled fourth runway in addition to the existing CAT III-enabled runway to the satisfaction of the DGCA in order to get approvals.
Further, the minister said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will issue an SOP for airlines on better communication and facilitation of passengers to minimise discomfort in view of flight cancellations and delays due to adverse weather.
“It is my earnest request to all travellers to bear with us during this difficult period. All stakeholders are trying their best to minimise passenger inconvenience. Incidences of unruly behaviour amidst this are unacceptable, and will be dealt with strongly in line with the existing legal provisions,” he said.
Delhi airport has four runways — RW 09/27, RW 11R/29L, RW 10/28 and RW 11L/29R. One of them is not operational now. The airport is the country’s largest airport and handles around 1,300 flights daily.
“Data from 5 am to 9 am shows that the CAT-III Runway RWY 11R/29L handled 30 landings and 1 take off during the 4-hour period whereas the non-CAT III Runway RWY 9/27 couldn’t handle any flight movement and RWY 11L/29R handled 2 Take-offs during the period,” the civil aviation ministry said in a post on X on Monday.
On Monday, five flights were diverted at the Delhi airport due to bad weather.
In recent weeks, dense fog and absence of CAT III-compliant pilots resulted in disruption of flight operations amid low-visibility conditions. During December 25-28 last year, flight operations were significantly impacted at the Delhi airport, and nearly 60 flights of various airlines were diverted due to dense fog.
Last month, airport sources had said 58 flights were diverted due to bad weather between 12 am on December 25 and 6 am on December 28.
Recently, aviation regulator DGCA issued show cause notices to Air India and SpiceJet for not deploying pilots trained to operate in low-visibility conditions, following diversions of various flights amid dense fog at the Delhi airport in late December.