Indian aviation authority issues new guideline after fog forces flight delays, cancellations

The Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday (January 15, 2024) issued a new guideline to handle chaotic situations over delays in flights as was witnessed due to fog at the Delhi airport.

Indian Aviation
Indian aviation body issues fresh guidelines after flights were delayed, due to fog. Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

In the standard operating procedure (SOP) for “facilities to be provided to passengers by airlines due to denied boarding, cancellation of flights and delays in flights”, the DGCA said that airlines may cancel flights that are likely to be delayed or “consequentially delayed” beyond three hours.

The DGCA said all airlines must follow the SOP immediately.

However, in the case of extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of airlines, the provisions of these rules are not applicable, the DGCA said.

What are the directives?

Airlines shall be required to publish accurate real-time information regarding delays of their flights, on the respective website of the airline; through advance information to affected passengers by SMS/WhatsApp and email; display updated information regarding flight delays to passengers waiting at airports, and appropriate sensitisation of the airline staff at airports to suitably communicate with and continuously guide and inform passengers about flight delays.

This comes after a chaotic situation broke out at the Delhi Airport on Monday, after hundreds of passengers of delayed flights demanded answers from the airlines.

The stressful day also saw the passenger of an IndiGo flight attacking a pilot inside the plane while it was on the tarmac.

Air India in a statement on Monday said it regrets the disruption to operations arising from the last few days’ dense fog in north India, including at “our main Delhi hub, which resulted in some diversions and desynchronisation of aircraft and crew rotations”.

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that steps have been taken to avoid similar circumstances in the future.

“Yesterday, Delhi witnessed unprecedented fog wherein visibility fluctuated for several hours, and at times, dropped to zero between 5 am and 9 am,”  Scindia posted on X.

“The authorities, therefore, were compelled to enforce a shut-down of operations for some time even on CAT III runways (CAT III runways cannot handle zero-visibility operations). The decision was taken keeping passenger safety in mind, which remains the foremost priority for all in the aviation ecosystem,” he added.

Indigo Pilot attack

Responding to an incident on a Delhi-Goa IndiGo flight where a co-pilot was slapped by a passenger, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia issued a strong warning to ‘unruly passengers’ on Monday.

The incident occurred amid widespread flight delays and cancellations caused by fog.

“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,” Scindia tweeted.

Video goes viral

A video of the incident, which has gone viral on social media, shows the accused, clad in a yellow jacket, rushing towards a co-pilot and slapping him.

The incident happened as the IndiGo pilot was announcing a delay in takeoff at the Delhi airport amid dense fog and low visibility.

The accused has been identified as Sahil Kataria.

Following the scuffle, Kataria was immediately deboarded and turned over to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

Co-pilot Anup Kumar lodged a complaint against the passenger with the Delhi Police, after which an FIR was registered.

Subsequently, the passenger was sent to a police station and arrested.

He was later released on bail.