Air India will rebuild its crew schedule so that it has more buffers and increase the number of pilots trained to operate visibility conditions to reduce disruption in the next winter season, CEO Campbell Wilson said.
Thick fog and a non-operational runway at India’s largest airport at Delhi threw flight operations into chaos this winter as airline crews dealt with irritated passengers whose flights were delayed or cancelled. A passenger on-board an IndiGo pilot punched the pilot after the flight was delayed by over four hours.
Following that, civil aviation regulator DGCA had levied a fine of Rs 30 lakh on Air India and SpiceJet for not having rostered pilots who can fly in low visibility conditions ahead of the cold season.
“In Northern India we are in the thick of an unusually bad fog season. This, coupled with the unfortunately-timed closure of one of Delhi’s two low-visibility runways for repair, has significantly impacted all airlines’ operations, with consequential effect on staff and, of course, customers,” Wilson said in a message to employees on Thursday which was reviewed by ET.
“As fog will recur in future seasons and airport and airway congestion will only increase, our operations team is assessing how to better cope, such as by building a larger pool of CAT3 crew, better roster planning and schedule buffers and, where necessary, more pre-emptive flight cancellations.”
CAT 3 crew are trained for landing an aircraft when the visual range of in runway is up to 50 metres.
Delhi Airport’s original plan of reopening the runway on 15 December has been postponed thrice as construction was delayed due to the G20 summit and construction ban to curb pollution.
On 14 January, there were significant disruptions to flight operations with over 500 flights getting delayed. Following that, civil aviation minister Jytoriaditya Scindia had warned airline CEOs should improve their efficiency or lose customers. He also said that the government will take strict action against airlines who don’t follow the regulations regarding passenger rights.
Air India will also take preventative measures as part of FogCare to minimise the impact of fog on flight operations, which typically occur in the mornings and evenings, the airline said.
Customers will be contacted and given simple options to reschedule or cancel their impacted flights at no additional cost.
Passengers on impacted flights can choose not to travel to the airport, avoiding the inconvenience of long lines.