Low visibility due to heavy smog disrupted flight operations at the Delhi airport on Sunday, with 37 flights diverted to other airports and more than 250 departures and 300 arrivals delayed, officials said. An airport official said the visibility improved around 3.30 pm. Pollution levels in Delhi peaked to a three-year high on Sunday. NASA satellite imagery showed vast swathes of the northern plains, covering Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, blanketed under a smoky haze. Due to low visibility at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), 37 flights were diverted between 9 am and 1 pm to places like Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow and Mumbai, the airport officials said. A senior government official said more than 250 departures and 300-plus arrivals at the Delhi airport were delayed due to heavy smog.
While Air India said it had diverted 12 flights since 9 am, Vistara said it had diverted five flights after 10 am due to the smog. IndiGo and AirAsia India told PTI that they diverted five and two flights, respectively. "Due to the unfavourable weather conditions in New Delhi, 18 of our departures are impacted with a delay fluctuating between 60-180 minutes," an AirAsia India spokesperson said. "Owing to the poor visibility in New Delhi due to smog, all departures/arrivals and their consequential flights might be impacted across the network. We are coordinating with our guests to plan their commute to the airport accordingly to avoid any inconvenience and ensure a smooth trip," the spokesperson said.
A SpiceJet spokesperson told PTI that nine flights of the airline were diverted to other airports due to smog. GoAir did not respond to queries sent by PTI. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the national capital's 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) stood at 494 at 4 pm on Sunday, the highest since November 6, 2016, when it was 497. An Air India spokesperson said, "Bad weather affected flight operations at the T3 terminal of the airport since 9 am. Twelve flights were diverted to Jaipur, Amritsar and Lucknow." Asked if it can be said that the "bad weather", as mentioned in an Air India statement, is actually pollution, he replied in the affirmative.
"Five flights each were diverted to the Jaipur airport and the Amritsar airport, two flights were diverted to the Lucknow airport," he said. The flights diverted to the Jaipur airport included those coming from Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad and London. Connecting flights from Singapore, Surat, Bahrain, Bhopal and Nagpur were diverted to the Amritsar airport. Two flights of Air India that were coming from Pune and Mumbai were diverted to the Lucknow airport, the spokesperson said. The national carrier also had to reschedule 16 flights and cancel four due to the smog, he said later in the day.
A Vistara spokesperson told PTI that while four flights, which were coming from Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Goa, were diverted to the Amritsar airport, one that was coming from Kochi was diverted to the Mumbai airport. "The diversion began post 10 am today due to the smog," he said. The Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, said the city's overall AQI reached as high as 708 around 5 pm, which is 14 times the safe level of 0-50.