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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Business » As water recedes, airlines to take stock of damage

As water recedes, airlines to take stock of damage

By Subhomoy Bhattacharjee
December 05, 2015 08:42 IST
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Would all the planes standing around in the floodwaters able to fly out this weekend, if the waters recede? Or would they need to go for a health check-up?

It was the airlines’ turnaround speed that was the differentiator among those who were left stranded at the airport here by nightfall of December 1 and those that weren’t.

In the great lake that the Chennai airport has become from that night, there were 34 aircraft that were left at various places, a picturesque element in the otherwise grim flood stories from the rest of the city.

Of the 34 that have stood, the largest number is from Jet Airways at eight. Air India has six aircraft parked there, while IndiGo has only two. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) confirmed the 34 but declined to give the airline-wise break-up.

What were the reasons for Jet and Air India to leave so many of their planes hanging in there? Business Standard asked airline companies about the train of events through Tuesday. A Jet spokesperson said they waited till 8 pm on the evening of December 1 at Chennai in an attempt to prevent diversion of flights to other airports. By then the call was made to shut down the airport by AAI for three hours since the water level on the runway had risen to two feet and the planes were stuck. The rains did not stop that night and the water level kept rising. By early next morning it was seven feet, according to AAI estimates, and the area was totally submerged. Six of Jet’s planes stranded at Chennai are Boeing and two ATRs.

Ashwani Lohani, chairman of Air India, said Chennai was not a major hub for them and so the number of aircraft kept parked there is low from among its total fleet size of 120. These, too, were Boeing. The Boeing planes in any case have a lower height compared to the ATRs and were, therefore, more susceptible as the water level rose on Wednesday.

However, IndiGo with a similar schedule like these two, did better. Aditya Ghosh, president of the airline, said his operations control team was tracking the weather bulletins closely since Tuesday morning. “We took a pre-emptive decision to divert 20 flights during the day which in hindsight proved to be a correct decision,” he said. He agreed that it was painful for the passengers but it has made it easier for IndiGo to offer its full service as soon as the airport is made operational.  For the airline, he claimed, it has saved on the cost of possible overhaul of the planes which it would have had to do after having stood in continuous rain for four days.

“Since we had only two planes there, there was time for our staff to cover the engines thoroughly (the typical orange covers) before they left the airports” for their own safety, he said.

Would all the planes standing around in the floodwaters able to fly out this weekend, if the waters recede? Or would they need to go for a health check-up? As on Friday night, all the airlines are convinced they can resume operations without the visits.

“My people have not reached the airport, so we will take a final call on Saturday. But my sense is the Air India aircraft can all take off after a few check-ups,” Lohani said. The Jet spokesperson was equally sure their aircraft were all in good shape.

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Subhomoy Bhattacharjee in Chennai
Source: source

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