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43 hrs and counting: Chaos reigns at airport

After many deadlines were not met throughout Saturday, officials claimed that the runway would be opened by Sunday morning. However, for commuters, Saturday proved nothing short of a nightmare

After the long delays experienced on Friday because a Turkish Airways flight skidded off the runway and got stuck in the mud, the Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (MIAL) may have assured that normalcy would return on Saturday, but the day proved worse.


Australian Michael O'Niel, whose flight home was rescheduled,
was surprised that authorities could not fix the problem


Inclement weather where rains kept lashing the city, poor visibility, an aircraft making an emergency landing, and the runway continuing to remain closed because operations to remove the Turkish plane (an Airbus 340-300) failed, led to extreme chaos at the airport.

After the 11 pm deadline that was set was missed, MIAL officials stated that they expected all work to remove the aircraft to be completed and the runway to be open by Sunday 8 am.

Most flights in and out of city experienced long delays and, expectantly, commuters were livid.

At Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Gaurav Bhat (42), who, along with colleague Pravin Dixit (40), was on his way for work to Tokyo, said, "We heard about the runway not being operational yesterday (Friday). But we did not know it would remain closed."

Among those stranded included foreigners, all of whom claimed that the image of airport authorities in the city was taking a beating. Michael O'Niel (26), an Australian national whose flight home was re-scheduled, said, "This is really unprofessional on the part of airport authorities. How could they not get the job done?
 
This incident won't be seen by tourists like me in good light." Gretel Paine (47), a US national who was on his way to Mumbai from Sri Lanka said his flight kept circling the airport for 'ages' before it finally landed. "I thought the runway problem would have been solved by yesterday (Friday). It is a pity it wasn't," he said.

Adding to the chaos brought on by the closure of the runway, airport authorities received a message in the afternoon that a Bengaluru to Mumbai SpiceJet flight had developed a technical snag in the air and that it would have to make an emergency landing.

An emergency was declared at the airport. However, a SpiceJet spokesperson revealed that the flight (SG 344), which was carrying 137 passengers, was able to make a safe landing at 12.21.

The weather also played truant and a Go Air flight from Delhi to Pune, which was scheduled to arrive at Pune airport at 10.15 am was instead diverted because of poor visibility.

Vivek Singh (35), a passenger on board the flight said, "We were diverted to Mumbai as the pilot said attempts to land at Pune failed and the plane was low on fuel." Passengers on the flight, instead of being flown to Pune on a separate aircraft, were given Rs 500 to reach Pune by road.

As delays occurred and passengers couldn't make it to the city on time, anxious relatives waiting for news of those traveling even tried to enter the airport, resulting in scuffles with policemen.

Rakesh Ghurye, a police official at the airport said, "We have to do our duty. Relatives keep complaining about how long they have been waiting, but this is a high security zone and rules need to be followed."

The never-ending deadline
Friday: Officials claimed that the runway would open by 8 pm. Delayed due to rains.
Next deadline is 2.30 am. Rains play havoc.
Saturday: To open by 12 noon. Delayed due to heavy rain that didn't allow crane to make it to the aircraft.
Saturday: To open by 5 pm.
Saturday: To open by 11 pm.
After 11 pm deadline failed, officials stated that the runway would be open by Sunday 8 am .

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