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Passengers stuck on planes for 12 hours as fog causes travel chaos in India

An aircraft prepares to take off amid dense fog on a cold winter morning at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi (AFP via Getty Images)
An aircraft prepares to take off amid dense fog on a cold winter morning at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi (AFP via Getty Images)

Dozens of passengers on an Indian commercial plane bound for capital Delhi decided to have their dinner on the airport tarmac after thick fog at the Delhi airport forced the flight crew to divert the flight and caused delays of up to 12 hours.

Photos and videos shared on social media showing people sitting right next to their IndiGo flight and eating their meals on the tarmac sparked a debate on airlines guidelines in the event of extreme weather.

A thick layer of fog enveloped Delhi which is in the grip of a  severe cold wave, resulting in massive disruption of flights and railway services to New Delhi.

On Monday, 463 flights leaving Delhi were delayed and 87 were cancelled, while a day earlier, more than 500 planes departing and arriving in Delhi were delayed.

Weather conditions interfered with the travel plans of thousands who were either left waiting at the airport or inside the aircraft after boarding as flight operators along with air traffic controllers waited for the visibility on the runway to improve.

According to reports, passengers on an IndiGo flight from Goa rejected the directions of the flight attendants and ground staff to alight from the plane and get inside a terminal at the Mumbai airport.

Ground staff connected the stepladder to the aircraft and the passengers were asked to alight. Though the airline had kept food packets in the coach (the bus that would carry them to terminal one building), the passengers – upset by the delay – refused to get in and proceeded to have the meals on the tarmac.

The crowd was taken off the tarmac with the help of federal police officials of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) who were called in by the airport authorities, the report added.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued show cause notices to both Indigo and Mumbai airport after the images went viral.

The flight finally departed for Delhi after a delay of over 12 hours. The airline issued a statement after similar episodes of delays in departure and arrivals and confirmed its operations were impacted.

“On January 14th, large parts of India were faced by exceptionally severe fog, which had a significant impact on the operation of airports and airlines alike. Cancellations and delays had a cascading effect on rotations throughout the day, leading to further impact on operations,” the statement said.

It added: “Keeping customers’ safety first, our staff put their best foot forward and worked tirelessly to deal with this situation and service the customers in the best possible way.”