UAE residents' travel plans hit as hundreds of flights cancelled in India

Airport authorities are grappling with unprecedented fog and inclement weather and airline operators in India have set up war rooms at six airports


Nasreen Abdulla

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Aircraft line up to take off at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi . Photo: AFP
Aircraft line up to take off at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi . Photo: AFP

Published: Wed 17 Jan 2024, 5:57 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Jan 2024, 11:46 PM

When Sadia Anwar booked a flight for herself and her two children to the Indian capital of New Delhi, she had just one goal — get to her ailing father in Bhopal as quickly as possible. However, her flight was cancelled, causing her to miss her connecting flight to Bhopal. She was later put on a flight to Mumbai, which was delayed by more than two hours.

“I had received a call that my father was on a ventilator,” she said. “I just wanted to get home to him as soon as possible, so this flight cancellation and delay was very frustrating.”

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Sadia is among the thousands of passengers affected by flight cancellations across India due to inclement weather. “More than 150 flights to and within India have been cancelled or delayed in the last two days,” said Safeer Mahamood, general manager at Smart Travels. “The worst hit was the New Delhi airport. Delays from that airport had a domino effect, eventually affecting several domestic and international flights.”

Safeer Mahamood,
Safeer Mahamood,

Unprecedented fog

Some cities in India, especially New Delhi, have been grappling with unprecedented fog and other weather conditions, which have contributed to extremely low visibility in their airports. This has significantly impacted flight traffic, causing rampant delays and cancellations nationwide. While some passengers took to social media to express their distress, others have taken matters to extreme lengths.

On Monday, a video of a man slapping a pilot after a 10-hour flight delay went viral. Other incidents of passengers using the tarmac as a dining hall and irate customers arguing with airport staff have also been posted on social media.

Sadia said she got lucky to have her flights changed. “I called Air India from Dubai and requested them to cancel my New Delhi Bhopal tickets and rebook it for Mumbai-Bhopal,” she said. “I explained that it was extremely important I reach there at the earliest. They were understanding of my situation and accommodated me. So I was able to reach home and be by my father. Thankfully, he is doing marginally better now.”

On Tuesday, India’s civil aviation minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, tweeted that the government had put in place several measures to deal with the situation. Among other initiatives, airports and airline operators have set up war rooms at six airports to address passenger concerns.

Global issue

According to Safeer, flight delays and cancellations have been a global issue. “We saw delays in some flights in the US sector, particularly among domestic flights,” he said. “Mauritius has also been affected by the cyclone Belal. So, several local carriers have cancelled or delayed flights. Heathrow has also experienced weather issues, and certain flights have been diverted. Flights to Canada also face some issues. However, one of the worst hit areas remains India.”

He said it was important for passengers to check their flights and contact the airline if they were travelling to one of the affected areas. “If the weather is bad, it is a situation that keeps changing,” he said. “So, passengers must factor this in when they prepare to fly. It might be a good idea for them to pack some essentials into their carry-on should they face any delays.”


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