Early morning fog is the bane of the Indian air passenger, especially at Bangalore and New Delhi airports. It disrupts schedules and leads to aggravation, quarrels, shouting, and general ill-will not just for passengers but also airlines, airports, and all their staff and stakeholders.
Here are some tips that should help you avoid the disruption and hopefully keep your blood pressure in check.
1. Foggy mornings
Fog affects cities like Bangalore, New Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, etc. in the mornings. Typically fog sets in around 03:00 in the morning and starts to dissipate between 08:00 and 09:00 in the morning. During this hours, flight operations virtually grind to a halt.
If you have a morning meeting, try to fly to your destination the evening before, arriving by 22:00 (10 PM) when fog could set in. Consider the cost of a hotel room as an insurance against missing that valuable morning meeting. The early morning meeting may also help you get an early evening flight back home.
2. Use technology
Technology is your friend. You can check weather and flight status updates faster on your phone than by going to the airline counter. You can check arrival and departure flows on websites like FlightRadar24 or FlightStats or their apps. NOAA, Weather, Accuweather and Windy are great weather apps. If you are technically inclined Aeroweather is a great app for checking the METARS and TAF for particular airports. Just because fog clears at your departure airport doesn’t it’s all good. So check the weather and flight status information at your arrival airport too.
3. Fog causes network disruptions
While you may be departing from an airport not affected by fog, you can still be affected. both New Delhi and Bangalore are major hub airports, and many aircraft begin their daily rotation from there. A fog delay in starting flights for the day will result in network-wide delays and disruptions for any airline. I recommend the evening (not late night) flights since airlines use the built-in schedule buffers to catch-up the disruptions, at least in some part.
4. Reach the airport early
Try and reach the counter two hours to 90 minutes before your flight. If there is a rush, you will reach the counter with time to spare, if there isn’t, you can always take the time to enjoy a coffee or tea or beer, chill-out and catch up with your phone calls, or just watch the beauty of planes go by.
5. Carry or buy your food and entertainment
At the low fares charged by Indian carriers, don’t have high expectations. Is ₹500 worth your blood pressure and sanity? Most Indian airports have a broad selection of food outlets. Buy your own food.
If you like home-made food, carry a couple of cheese and/or jam sandwiches or parathas from home. You cannot carry pickles, masalas, liquids and gels past security, but you have your paratha-achaar or podi-idli or bisi bele bhath after check-in but before security.
Don’t want to pay inflated prices for bottles of water. Carry an empty water bottle from home. Fill it at a water fountain, after you clear security. You will save the environment too.
Carry your favourite music or video episodes on your devices. Enjoy the show.
6. Keep your cool. Don’t threaten or get physical.
Fog is a dynamic situation. It can envelope an airport in under 30 to 60 minutes. Its dissipation is also dynamic. The staff too are at nature’s mercy.
There is no point yelling at them, it will only alienate them. Have patience, keep calm. Speak to them politely. Understand their point of view.
Don’t make hollow claims that you will never fly the airline again. The staff know you will. And if you are that one in a million person who will actually follow through, hey, they have already lost your business, so why should they bother anymore? You lose either way. For now complete your trip. Later on, you can always vote with your wallet and not fly them again.
Above all don’t make a threat against the aircraft, an employee, the airport, etc. It will be treated seriously, and you could be off-loaded. Any physical contact, even a touch, can be treated as a physical assault, and that will earn you time with the police or even jail.
7. Why do airlines some airlines fly while others are grounded?
Airlines and airports can operate at different levels of visibility. It starts from Cat I (Cat one) till Cat III C (Cat Three See). Delhi airport’s runway is certified to Cat III B. Bangalore is still at Cat I, but its new runway will be certified to Cat III C sometime in 2020. Sorry my fellow Bangaloreans, this winter is going to be like the earlier ones.
However, to operate in Cat III B conditions it is a combination of check-boxes that need to be fulfilled. The airport must be certified to Cat III B. The particular aircraft must be certified to Cat III B. Both the pilots must be certified to Cat III B. The costs of maintaining a pilot’s certification is very high, so airlines only train and certify a portion of their pilots to this standard. On top of this, add the operational complexities of crew scheduling, rostering, locating, rest-periods, etc. and an airline can be forgiven for not having a certified pilot for your particular flight.
8. Why do airlines keep you boarded on the aircraft during fog?
Pilots keep constant touch with the air traffic control who keeps receiving updates on the visibility. But it is mother nature after all. The fog dissipates in patches. If the ATC sees a gap in the fog, it tries to get out as many aircraft as safely possible. Naturally, the ATC cannot wait for 30 minutes while the flight is announced and boarded. Those planes that a full, and ready to leave will get that precious slot.
Remember, the food and digital entertainment. To that list add a pair of eye shades, some noise-reduction headphones, or ear plugs, and an inflatable travel pillow. Carry the pillow around your neck while boarding. Catch up on those zzzees.
9. Check on-time performance and cancellation reports
India’s aviation regulator the DGCA, publishes monthly reports on airlines’ performance. This includes on-time performance; rates of cancellations, complaints and reasons; facilities and compensation offered to passengers.
During the winter, especially in Bangalore, reputation and market leader IndiGo, seems to have the poorest performance amongst its private peers, even newcomer Vistara.
The chart also shows how poorly Bangalore Kempegowda airport fares in the foggy month of January, thanks to its basic Cat I runway. Delhi with Cat III B is impacted, but not as severely. Mumbai is just plain over-saturated, and the city desperately needs other airports.
10. Zero passenger rights
If you are expecting any solace from the government or airlines, don’t. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has done an absolutely abysmal job of protecting passengers’ rights. While the passenger charter, requires airlines to do many things, there are exemptions for virtually everything. In the few places where requirements are spelt out, there are no penalties specified, or a time frame within which airlines are required to take any corrective action.
Just accept it, you have no rights to speak of. Just be a smart traveller. Buy travel and baggage insurance, and keep reading Bangalore Aviation. Or can just avoid travelling this winter season.
Share your tips
Share your tips on how to ease the travel aggravation during this winter fog season.