Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Fog leads to chaos at BIA

Fog leads to chaos at BIA
Bangalore, Jan 5, DH News Service:

For all the hooplah over Bengaluru International Airport’s (BIA) so-called international standards, the ground realities there on Monday exposed its weaknesses when it was faced with pressures due to cancelled and delayed flights caused by inclement weather conditions over Bangalore and northern India.

As many as 28 flights, including two international flights (British Airways and Oman Air), were delayed because of the thick fog that enveloped the skies over Bangalore and its adjoining areas on Monday.

Consequently, hundreds of air travellers had a trying time when BIAL and the airline staff did the Houdini act as the pressure built up. Frustrated travellers whose flights were cancelled scrambled to find seats, not on flights, but at BIAL where there was a virtual musical chairs game in which very few seats matched with a burgeoning crowd of grounded passengers.

Responding to delays in its flight operations, national carrier Air India said: “As a result of fog situation in Delhi and Bangalore airports for the past two days, the schedule of flights of many airlines, including Air India, have been disrupted over the entire network. Flight IC-106 was delayed in Bangalore due to late arrival of the incoming flight IC-105 from Mumbai.

“The delay in Mumbai was due to shortage of cabin crew to operate the flight because of the disruptions in the last two days due to fog conditions in Delhi. Duty managers from both Air India and its joint venture partner Air India SATS were available at the counters giving continuous information to the passengers about the flight delay” said V Chandrasekar, Senior Manager (Corporate Communications) Air India, Bangalore.

‘No place to sit’
Fuming passengers complained they had no place to sit and no food vouchers. “We had no clear idea what was happening,” said Srinivas, who was booked on an 8:30 am Air India flight to Mumbai. His co-passengers alleged that the Air India staff at Gate 11 “simply vanished” when irate flyers demanded precise information on the departure time. “It was only later that we realised they had moved to the counter in front of Gate 5 to avoid us,” he said.

A passenger, booked on the 8.30 am Kingfisher flight to Chennai, which finally took off at 2.15 pm, was luckier. She did get a food voucher which entitled her to a breakfast comprising “two cold, rockhard idlis after much fighting and screaming.”

The passenger who did not wish to be identified, said: “But what was worse was the attitude of Kingfisher’s front desk staff — no one seemed to know what time the flight would depart as it was a connecting flight from New Delhi. We assumed fog had delayed all flights, though no announcement was made. At 9 am, we were told there would be an hour’s delay. An hour later, the digital announcement flashed a ‘Flight Cancelled’ message with no further announcement.”

The harrowing tale did not end there. The passengers were apparently told that the cancelled flight would be merged with another flight 2 hours late. “We finally boarded at 1.15 pm but sat on the aircraft for 45 minutes before the flight took off at 2:15 pm”, she said.

Because of the delay the passenger missed two business meetings.

Her daughter, who was booked for a 10 am jet Airways flight to Mumbai and thence to London on Gulf Air, faced some anxious moments after her flight was delayed by 4 hours.
When she explained the problem to the Kingfisher ground staff, they allegedly said that since she was “not booked with us on the Mumbai-London sector, we cannot do anything”.

That BIAL was not prepared to meet the contingencies arising out of the delays and cancelled flights was evident when Jet Konnect passengers faced problems arising out of a lack of coordination between airport and airline staff.

Those booked on the 7 am Jet Konnect flight were asked to board at 6.30 am and virtually held “hostage” inside the aircraft till the ultimate take-off around 9.15 am, said Divya Soorenji, an affected passenger.

“Being a low-cost carrier, food was not served, not even taking into consideration the delayed departure and further delays in landing and baggage delivery. Only water was served on-the-house, while the food sold onboard was too dear for an economy flier,” complained another passenger.

According to information available, the problem was compounded due to the absence of station managers of various airlines at the Bangalore International Airport.


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