This Article is From Apr 19, 2010

Ash cloud travel chaos: 41,435 passengers stranded in India

Ash cloud travel chaos:  41,435 passengers stranded in India
New Delhi: With volcanic plumes disrupting flights for the fifth day, Government on Monday said it was in talks with Greece to allow Indian carriers to pick up or de-board stranded passengers as all flights to and from Europe remained suspended.

But Air India and Jet Airways operated flights to the US and Canada making slight diversions to avoid the affected airspace.

Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar said 41,435 outbound passengers in Delhi and Mumbai were affected by the shutdown, adding "the situation is still grim".

The airlines have been urging Embassies and High Commissions here to take care of the affected people from their countries. Most of them are destined for Europe.

While Air India and Jet resumed services to the US and Canada through Cairo and Athens respectively, all their flights and those of Kingfisher Airlines to Europe including London, Brussels and Paris, were cancelled on Monday and are likely to remain so on Tuesday, their spokespersons said.

Nambiar said the Ministry has warned the airlines not to charge excessive fares while asking passengers to re-book their tickets for which the flights have been cancelled.

He said talks were on with the Greek authorities to allow Indian carriers to drop and pick up passengers at Athens airport, so that those destined to European cities could take alternate modes of transport to their destinations while those stranded in Europe could return to India.

Nambiar said the Civil Aviation Ministry has set up a control room, headed by a Joint Secretary, with officials from Ministry of External Affairs and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to help those stranded in India.

The Ministry is also understood to have written a letter to the Union Home Ministry to extend the visas of stranded passengers for a few more days, sources said.

With global air traffic to and from Europe virtually coming to a halt after volcanic plumes from Iceland enveloped the European sky, Euro control, which provides air navigation services throughout the western continent, said it expected only 9,000 flights to operate in Europe today compared with 28,126 flights on a normal Monday.

Air India resumed its Chicago-Mumbai-Chicago and Newark-Ahmedabad flights with a technical stopover at Cairo, while Jet Airways operated Delhi-Toronto and Mumbai-Newark services via Athens.

Air India would also operate a combined flight AI 191/144 on the Delhi-Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Newark-Mumbai to clear the backlog of passengers between India and New York.

Kingfisher has cancelled its flights to London from Delhi and Mumbai.