Srinagar: While the inclement weather had forced the cancellation of just over 100 flights between January 4 and 9 last year, as many as 273 flight cancellations were witnessed during the same period this year at the Srinagar International Airport.
The whopping jump of more than 150 per cent in the flight cancellations is mostly due to the increase in the number of scheduled flights operating this winter. In 2021, only 25 to 30 daily flight arrivals were seen at the airport.
The number of flights has increased to almost 35 to 40 daily flights this winter. As a result over 53 flights were cancelled at the Srinagar airport daily on an average for the last six days due to poor visibility owing to inclement weather.
Flight operations since Thursday mostly remained suspended due to poor visibility at the airport even though a few flights took off intermittently. As per a spokesman at the airport, a total of 273 flights to-and-fro the airport were cancelled since January 4 including 138 from Srinagar to various destinations.
The disruptions have left travellers disappointed since Tuesday including tourists, many of whom were left stranded in the valley.
After the surge in flight cancellations recently, authorities last week announced that the process for installation of CAT-II instrument landing system (ILS) at Srinagar International Airport will commence in April this year and will be completed by November. ILS is a radio navigation system that provides short-range guidance to aircraft to allow them to approach a runway at night or in bad weather.
“Hopefully, next winter, our visibility requirement will reduce from 900 M to 500 M,” Airports Authority of India (AAI) spokesman said in a Tweet.
Notably, the non-availability of the latest Instrument Landing System (ILS) CAT-II or CAT-III at Srinagar International Airport is leading to frequent cancellation of flights, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture has pointed out in its report. “The committee is dismayed to note that regular delays in flight operations and cancellations of flights occur at Srinagar Airport due to the non-availability of CAT-II or CAT-III facilities,” reads a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
“The committee fails to understand the reason behind the non-installation of CAT II and CAT facilities at the Srinagar Airport in the present age of technology and that too at one of the strategic locations of J&K,” the committee said. “Some members of the committee faced a harrowing experience during the recent study visit of the committee to Srinagar as they were stranded at the Srinagar Airport due to the cancellation of flights amidst adverse foggy conditions. Availability of CAT-II or CAT-III landing facility at the Srinagar Airport could have facilitated the landing of aircraft in those circumstances.”
The committee said that the Union Civil Aviation Ministry had clarified that AAI maintains a Civil Enclave at Srinagar Airport while airfield installations and airside operations at the airports are maintained by Indian Air Force (IAF).
Pertinently, Srinagar airport is under the direct operational control of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which controls its air traffic and landing strip and also the facilities of fire-fighting and crash activities, apart from the airspace. The terminal building, where the passengers check-in and check-out, and the apron area, where an aircraft is parked are controlled by the AAI. The airport witnesses operations of 35 to 40 commercial flights every day.