A dust storm with wind speed exceeding 100 kmph brought operations at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport to a halt during the evening rush hours, with close to 70 flights being diverted to other places.
The operations at the airport had to be shut down for close to two and half hours, sources at Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the airport said, adding that the magnitude of the disruptions in traffic was more than what was anticipated."The situation is slightly unique, the disruptions are mostly on account of wind shear... the number of diversions are now touching 70," the sources said.
The air traffic operations began to normalise by 9 pm and the backlogs were clearing fast, they said.
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Wind shear refers to a rapid change in winds over a short horizontal distance experienced by aircraft, conditions that can cause a rapid change in lift, and thus the altitude, of the aircraft.
According to an airport official, the wide-spread disruptions can also be attributed to the time of the storm which hit the airport during the rush hours and continued for over two hours.
As the disruptions worsened, various airlines took to the Twitter announcing the delays, with Vistara saying that operations of its airline would normalise by 2 am. It announced the cancellations of one its flight from Bhubaneswar which was diverted to Jaipur.
Vistara in a statement said, "Due to severe weather that impacted Delhi, over 70 flights across multiple airlines were diverted and many more delayed and cancelled.
"As this may have resulted in you (passengers) having to change your travel plans, we are waiving change/cancellation fee for all customers booked to or from Delhi on May 13 and 14, who wish to no longer travel or wish reschedule their booking for a different date. However, fare difference, if any, for flights on a different date will be payable."All efforts are underway to recover from disruptions and manage the situation at the earliest but consequential disruptions are likely to occur tomorrow as some aircraft and crew are held up at some locations due to flight diversions, it said.
Vistara has so far cancelled eight flights.
The diverted flights were mostly directed towards Jaipur, Amritsar and Lucknow which several others went back to their originating points.
International flights from Kathmandu, Riyadh, Colombo, Jeddah, Kabul were delayed even as flights from Tokyo, Newark and Colombo were diverted to other places, the sources said. Reports said some 10 international flights were diverted to Lucknow after the ATC at the IGI airport refused permission to land.An official of an airline said that given the magnitude of the diversion, it would take close to 24 hours for them to normalise operations while sources at the airport said the exact number of diversions and cancellations would become clear by tomorrow morning.