Scindia holds emergency meeting on airport fog issues

New Delhi: Being locked in an aerobridge, a 13-hour delay on a Delhi-Goa flight, angry passengers having a meal on the tarmac, and passengers locked in an aircraft for over three hours -- as some of these harrowing tales of people stuck at airports due to flight delays caused by fog continue to roll, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia held an emergency meeting late on Monday night to see what steps can be taken to minimise trouble for the fliers. While Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on mitigating passenger inconvenience have been issued to all airlines due to fog disruptions, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has issued show-cause notices to IndiGo and Mumbai International Airport Ltd over the incident of passengers having a meal on the airport tarmac on Sunday.

In Mumbai, several passengers rushed out of an IndiGo aircraft at the airport and sat on the tarmac, and some were seen having food there as soon as their diverted Goa-Delhi flight landed after a long delay on Sunday. In its notice to MIAL and IndiGo, BCAS said both IndiGo and MIAL were not proactive in making facilitation arrangements for passengers at the airport. The notices have been sent over passenger mistreatment.

Mr Scindia said Delhi had seen unprecedented fog, as the visibility fluctuated for several hours, and at times, dropped to zero between 5 am and 9 am. The authorities, therefore, were forced to enforce a shutdown of operations for some time even on CAT III runways (CAT III runways can’t handle zero-visibility operations).

“In addition to the SOPs, we have sought incidence reporting thrice daily for all six metro airports. Implementation of DGCA India Directives, SOPs, and CARs will be monitored and reported regularly. ‘War rooms’ will be set up by airports and airline operators at the six metro airports to address any issues on passenger inconvenience with immediacy. Sufficient CISF manpower availability will be ensured round-the-clock. RWY (Runway) 29L at Delhi Airport has been made CAT III operational today (Tuesday). Operationalisation of RWY (Runway) 10/28 as CAT III at Delhi airport after re-carpeting will also be undertaken,” the minister said.

As for shutting down runways, the minister said the decision was taken keeping passenger safety in mind. “To mitigate the situation in the near future, the following steps have been taken: A: Delhi Airport has been asked to immediately expedite the operationalisation of the CAT III-enabled 4th runway (in addition to the existing CAT III-enabled runway) to the satisfaction of the DGCA India, in order to get approvals. B: The 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 minimize passenger inconvenience. Incidences of unruly behaviour amidst this are unacceptable and will be dealt with strongly in line with the existing legal provisions. I would like to assure everyone that all stakeholders are working round the clock to minimise the fog-related impact,” the minister said.

After a video of passengers eating on the tarmac at Mumbai airport went viral on social media Monday, Mr Scindia held a meeting with all ministry officials at around 12.30 am on Tuesday. In the early hours of Tuesday, BCAS issued show-cause notices to both Indigo and MAIL.

Sources said the aircraft was allotted a remote bay C-33 in Mumbai instead of a Contact Stand, an aircraft parking stand that is suitable for walking passengers to and from an aircraft from an allocated boarding gate. This further added to passenger woes and deprived them of the opportunity to avail basic facilities like restrooms and refreshments at the terminal, they added. Such a situation, sources said, resulted in an unfavourable, unacceptable experience for tired and harassed passengers. The flight operation was planned and executed without taking passenger convenience, laid down security norms and the operational issues into account, they added.

Regarding IndiGo, the sources said the show-cause notice has been issued as the airline failed to observe aviation security procedures in respect of Flight 6E-2195, which landed at Mumbai airport at 23:21 Sunday due to diversion. As per the notice, IndiGo allowed the disembarkation of passengers from the flight onto the apron and then boarded them onto Flight 6E-2091 on Monday at the airport, without following the procedure of security screening. Also, the incident was not reported to BCAS by the airline, the sources said.

The show-cause notice was issued for its failure to report an incident over the flight that landed at Mumbai airport.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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