Thursday , 19 September 2019
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Kingfisher, Air India, and SpiceJet best airlines to fly during the Delhi winter fog season

The dreaded winter fog season which plagues all transport services operating at the national capital, New Delhi, is fast approaching. Air travel is particularly hard hit with scores flights being delayed, diverted or outright cancelled.

In our quest to help air travellers in India, to better plan and minimise the disruptive impact of fog, Bangalore Aviation sent out a questionnaire to all major domestic carriers on their Cat-IIIB capabilities, aircraft and pilots, policies and plans for contingencies during the upcoming winter fog season.

The questions were

  1. How will you handle passengers of delayed flights of 5 hours or less?
  2. How will you handle passengers of delayed flights of more than 5 hours?
  3. How will you handle passengers of cancelled flights
  4. In the event of a delay/cancellation, what are your airline’s policies for:
    1. food
    2. refunds
    3. shelter/boarding/lodging (in case of transit passengers
    4. next available flight on your airline (assuming you have a flight on the same day in an acceptable time frame)
    5. if the passenger needs to get to the destination and you do not have a flight on the same day/acceptable time frame — putting them on an alternate airline — at whose expense ?
  5. How many Cat IIIB certified pilots does your airline have?
  6. How many Cat IIIB certified aircraft does your airline have?
  7. How many Cat IIIA certified pilots does your airline have?
  8. What percentage of your flights in to / out of Delhi will be operated by Certified Cat IIIB pilots?
  9. What percentage of your flights in to / out of Delhi will be operated by Certified Cat IIIA pilots (assuming a lack of Cat-IIIB pilots or aircraft)?

Bangalore Aviation received a variety of responses based on which we opine, that the three airlines of choice this winter to and from Delhi, are Kingfisher Airlines, Air India and SpiceJet.

All the Airbus and Boeing jet aircraft in the Kingfisher and Air India fleet are Cat-IIIB certified. SpiceJet aircraft are all Cat-IIIA. SpiceJet’s Cat-IIIA capabilities are acceptable since Delhi airport ATC only operates at Cat-IIIA (200m) or better conditions, even though the runways 28, 29, and 11 are Cat-IIIB equipped.

Air India has 500+ Cat-IIIB pilots while Kingfisher has 283. SpiceJet claims a “sufficient number” of Cat-IIIA pilots to operate their Delhi flights. All three airlines will deploy their most qualified pilots for Delhi flight operations.

SpiceJet deserves a special mention — in response to the question if the passenger needs to get to the destination and you do not have a flight on the same day/acceptable time frame — putting them on an alternate airline — at whose expense? — they are the only airline that has indicated they will put their passenger on an alternate airline at their expense.

Air India has indicated it will endorse their ticket to any other airline willing to accept it. Kingfisher indicated they will transfer passengers to “airlines with whom they have an interline agreement” — currently that is Jet Airways — however, since none of the Jet group (Jet Airways, JetLite, Jet Konnect) responded to our questionnaire, we seriously doubt how robust this fallback arrangement will be.

All three airlines appear have deployed robust contingency plans to tackle delays including updating customers via SMS, with Kingfisher leading the pack in terms of meals and snacks being provided to passengers in the event of delay. If you haven’t done so, please provide the airlines with your cell number and help them keep you informed.

All three airlines have geared up their call centres for handling the crush of phone calls, but our humble request not to flood the airline with unnecessary calls.

In case of cancelled flights, all three airlines will provide one-way taxi fare to passengers whose tickets originate from Delhi, and hotel accommodation to transit passengers (read diverted flights).

Air India has the most liberal hotel accommodation policy for passengers not originating from Delhi, with the exception of passengers on X class. Kingfisher will provide hotel accommodation to out-station full fare passengers whose tickets are not originating from Delhi.

SpiceJet has a good on-going record of on-time operations, and both Kingfisher and Air India have paid special attention to this aspect during the last few months and brought their on-time operations up to speed.

The responses of Kingfisher, Air India and SpiceJet are reproduced below.

Kingfisher Airlines
Q. Handling of guest of delayed flights of 5 hours or less

  • Guests will be served light refreshments if the delay is between 1 to 4 hours and heavy refreshments /lunch/dinner if the delay is more than 4 hours.
  • Rerouting on other airlines will be offered on carriers with whom we have an ongoing interline agreement (i.e. Jet Airways group).
  • Full refund will be given if guests want to cancel their tickets.

Q. Handling of guest of delayed flights of more than 5 hours

  • Guests will be served heavy refreshments / lunch / dinner as per the time of the day.
  • Full refund will be given to guests who wish to cancel their tickets.
  • Rerouting on other airlines will be offered on carriers with whom we have an ongoing interline agreement.
  • One way taxi fare to residence will be provided to full fare ticket guests and whose tickets are issued at the point of origin.

Q. Handling of cancelled flights

  • Guests will be offered refreshments at the airport depending on the time of the day.
  • Full refund will be given to all guests.
  • Rerouting on other airlines will be offered on carriers with whom we have an ongoing interline agreement.
  • Guests travelling with full fare tickets not issued from station of origin will be given hotel accommodation.
  • Guests whose tickets are issued from the station of departure will be given taxi fare back to their residence. No hotel accommodation will be provided to these guests

Over and above this:

  • Guests will be provided with assistance during cancellations and Delays. Special attention and care will be given to elderly guests, ladies with children and infants, Wheelchair guests.
  • Regular announcements on delays with realistic timings will be made after coordinating with our Flight dispatch teams.
  • Fog leaflets advising the airlines policy on cancellation and diversion will be given to all guests.
  • Refreshment boxes consisting of a few basic items like water ,juice and cookies will be readily available to be offered to guests for delays less than 2 hours. These boxes are ready and have been dispatched to the airports

Responses to your other questions:

  • Kingfisher Airlines has 39 Cat IIIB certified aircraft in its fleet. Every single Airbus aircraft in our fleet is Cat IIIB certified.
  • Kingfisher Airlines has 283 pilots who are fully trained and certified to operate flights in Category 3-B conditions.
  • Because we have been in the process of converting all our Cat IIIA certified pilots to certify for Cat IIIB operations, we currently have only 13 pilots left who are certified for Cat IIIA operations and they too will be soon converted to Cat IIIB qualifications.
  • CAT III B operations at New Delhi are usually necessitated during fog-prone periods, namely the morning hours (0600 till 1000 hrs) and during evening hours (2100 hrs onwards). This is the time during which fog normally affects New Delhi (more during morning). Kingfisher Airlines has planned that all flights during this period will be operated with a Cat IIIB qualified crew.

Air India
Ans 1,2,3 & 4 :
Since Air India’s focus is on departures using CAT-IIIB trained pilots, a delay of more than 5 hours is unlikely. However, if due to persistent poor weather, flights are delayed / totally disrupted, then the airline has a laid down procedure for passenger handling :

  • Food : Passengers of delayed flights will be provided refreshments. Special snack boxes, consisting of a between meal times menu, have been arranged through a reputed inflight caterer at Delhi airport.
  • Refund / rebooking : In case the passenger so wishes, Air India will refund the fare to the passenger. In case flights are totally disrupted and crew FDTL [flight duty time limit] comes into effect and flights may be subsequently cancelled, passengers will be booked on the next available flight of Air India / other airlines. Air India will endorse a passenger’s ticket on to any other carrier willing to accept the ticket.
  • Accommodation : Confirmed passengers, including transit passengers, will be provided hotel accommodation in case their Air India flight is cancelled. However, passengers holding X-Class fare level tickets will not be eligible for hotel accommodation.
  • Information : Air India’s call centres have been reinforced with additional staff to provide timely information to booked passengers.
  • Economy Class passengers booked on Air India flights will be informed by the call centres, of any anticipated delay as well as flight updates.
  • First Class and Executive Class passengers will be informed by officers of the Special Handling Cell.
  • Manpower at the airports has also been strengthened. A special roster of officers has been drawn up to assist passengers at the airport on fog days.

Ans 5 & 7 : Air India has ( AI + IC ) nearly 500 trained and certified CAT-IIIB pilots, the maximum number with any airline in the country.

Ans 6 : All of Air India’s jet aircraft ( AI + IC ), are CAT-IIIB compliant.

Ans 8 & 9 : Air India has planned its schedule of flights during fog days with the objective of ensuring that all its flights into / from Delhi airport are operated by CAT-IIIB trained pilots.

SpiceJet

1. How will you handle passengers of delayed flights of 5 hours or less?
We have taken all steps to make travel for the passengers comfortable. In case of delays, regular SMS updates will be sent and personal calls will be made from time to time to update passengers on flight status. In case of extensive delays, our passengers will be provided with refreshments. Accommodation to transit passengers will be provided in case they have to spend the night in the connecting city.

2. How will you handle passengers of delayed flights of more than 5 hours?
Passengers on-board the aircraft as well as those awaiting boarding will be provided with refreshments in case of an extensive delay. Passengers on-board will be brought to the departure hall in accordance with ATC permission.

3. How will you handle passengers of cancelled flights to the same destination?
Passengers of cancelled flights are put on to the next available flight.

4. In the event of a delay/cancellation, what are your airline’s policies for-
(a) food – Answered above
(b) shelter/boarding/lodging (in case of transit passengers) – Answered above
(c) next available flight on your airline (assuming you have a flight on the same day in an acceptable time frame) – Answered above
(d) if the passenger needs to get to the destination and you do not have a flight on the same day/acceptable time frame – putting them on an alternate airline – at whose expense- We put them on an alternate airline at our expense.

5. How many *Cat IIIA* certified *pilots* does your airline have
We have sufficient number of Cat III A certified pilots to operate flights in and out of fog-impacted stations.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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