Mumbai rains continue to haunt airport operations
"I had a Spicejet flight SG 163 for Kanpur at 2:40 PM from Mumbai. But it has been cancelled now. They are giving ticket refund but there isn't any other flight available for today. If I go via Lucknow then the ticket prices are as high as Rs 13,000. Now, I will have to stay in Mumbai for one more day and then look for a way out," says Anand Kumar a resident of Kanpur who was in Mumbai for his relative's doctor appointment. His relative is suffering from Cancer. The problems for Anand Kumar have compounded because the airline, as he says, isn't even sure if they will be able to fly the Mumbai-Kanpur route tomorrow. They say there is some runway issue and there isn't any permission from the ATC (Air Traffic Control), he adds.
Anand Kumar is one of the hundreds of passengers, who are facing flight cancellations and delays for the last three days. Incessant rainfall lashed the city on Monday which resulted in a SpiceJet flight overshooting the runway during landing. While the airport authority claims that no passengers were hurt in the incident, the main runway had to be shut down after the incident.
In the absence of main runway, the secondary runway was in operations forcing the airport to run at half the capacity. While Tuesday saw more than 200 flight cancellations, by Wednesday noon there were reports of cancellations of 40 arrivals and 35 departures.
On Wednesday, when India Today TV visited the Mumbai International Airport, there was complete mayhem. Passengers were crowding around the airline counters seeking clarifications and alternate flights to their destinations. But many were seen fuming at the alleged irresponsive behaviour of the airline staff.
"This flight was late by 9 hours in Jeddah and when I arrived in Mumbai at 6:30 AM, I was told that my flight to the next destination had been cancelled. I was made to go from one place to another and no Indigo airline staff helped me. They rudely asked me to buy another ticket. I was here since morning and they didn't even offer a glass of water. They didn't allow us to sit inside. Outside it is raining so heavily. This is what is happening to passengers after paying so much for tickets. Where should we go with our luggage?" asks Muhammad Irshad who works as a salesman. He is also irritated with the fact that the last-minute prices are sky rocketing and the common man is left in the lurch.
Passengers also complained that there was no prior communication from the airlines and they were told about the cancellations only when they reached the airport.
"Forget about asking for water they didn't even have the courtesy to tell us the reason for cancellation. So, we are just waiting here and contemplating what to do next. We can't even explain the kind of problems that we are facing sitting outside the airport. This is such a waste of time," says Devendra Yadav a businessman from Jhansi.
"We asked the airline to accommodate us to Bhopal but they didn't agree. So now we will have to go to Delhi and then see some way to reach Jhansi," he adds.
Devendra Yadav has been in Mumbai with his friend Rahul Agrawal for a week now but the two friends haven't had a great stay. On the day when Mumbai received first heavy showers, the duo was out on a business meeting but got stuck in traffic for hours and lost out on the business opportunity. Rahul Agrawal says that Mumbai didn't welcome them nicely and that he was left shocked with the intensity of the rains.
"It took us three hours from Kalbadevi to reach airport and here too we spent nearly two hours at the counter only to realise that the flight had been cancelled. The airline staff was just not bothered with our problems. They were irritated seeing so much crowd. The behaviour of the staff was very bad," said Rahul Agrawal.
Mumbai is just about recovering from the worst bout of 48-hour rainfall in a decade. The infrastructure of the financial capital seemed to crack. The city transportation came to a standstill with airways, roadways and railways coming to a grinding halt. This rainfall also claimed more than 37 lives in Maharashtra and the count is only increasing. The death toll in Mumbai alone is over 30 with Malad wall tragedy claiming 26 lives by Wednesday evening.
But the trouble is far from over as the IMD has forecasted heavy rainfall in the city and suburbs on Thursday.