Kozhikode/New Delhi: In an unexpected turn of events, air travel in North India has become a challenging endeavor as dense fog wreaks havoc, causing delayed flights and disgruntled passengers.
My recent flight from the warm city of Kozhikode to the foggy capital, Delhi, was marred by three delays, taking off at 12:35 am and circling over the national capital for nearly two hours before landing in almost zero visibility conditions. Arriving home on Monday at 6 am, I realized that despite my tiredness and trauma, I was among the fortunate ones.
However, the plight of numerous passengers, including the elderly, ailing individuals, and those with infants and young children, was far worse. Many found themselves stuck at airports with flights delayed by up to 13 hours, diverted, or outright canceled.
As a thick fog descends over much of North India, particularly Delhi, the uncertainty surrounding air travel becomes palpable—a recurring winter narrative that has unfolded again this year.
Accompanying me on IndiGo flight 6E 5912, delayed by three hours, were notable figures, including Turkish Ambassador to India Fırat Sunel, historian William Dalrymple, and children's author Shobha Tharoor—all returning from the Kerala Literature Festival.
The ripple effect of low visibility due to dense fog has disrupted flight operations not only in North India but also in several other states. On Monday morning alone, at least 168 flights were delayed, and nearly 100 were canceled at Delhi airport.
Tempers flared at airports, onboard flights, and across social media platforms. A disturbing incident involved an IndiGo passenger, Sahil Kataria, who assaulted a pilot during an announcement about further delays to the Goa-bound flight at Delhi. The flight eventually took off after a delay of over 10 hours.
In another incident at Mumbai airport, passengers rushed out of an IndiGo aircraft, sitting on the tarmac and eating food after their diverted Goa-Delhi flight landed following a significant delay on Sunday. The incident led to show cause notices to IndiGo and Mumbai airport operator MIAL from the aviation security watchdog BCAS.
These incidents prompted Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia to hold a meeting with ministry officials, assuring the public that the government is taking steps to minimize the impact of fog-related disruptions.
Stories of horror continued to emerge, such as an Air India flight from Calicut to Mumbai delayed by more than 12 hours, leaving passengers stranded without clear information about rescheduled departures.
Social media became a platform for venting frustration, with visuals of long queues at airports circulating widely. Actor Ranvir Shorey called out IndiGo for a 10-hour delay, alleging misinformation about weather-related issues.
Amid the chaos, actors Radhika Apte and Surbhi Chandna shared their air travel ordeals on social media, adding to the mounting criticism of airlines' handling of delays.
In response, both Air India and IndiGo issued statements, with Air India expressing regret for the inconvenience caused and IndiGo emphasizing efforts to minimize passenger inconvenience during weather-related disruptions.
As North India grapples with fog-induced challenges, the public and aviation authorities are navigating a complex situation to restore normalcy in air travel schedules.
—Input from Agencies