The flying time from Indore to Mumbai is around an hour but passengers who flew into the city on Wednesday evening spent nearly double the flying time inside the IndiGo aircraft upon arrival. In other cases, the airline boarded passengers and made them wait inside for hours as pilots and crew could not reach the airport in time.
Everyone who flew in or out of Mumbai on Wednesday had a similar story. Long delays due to heavy rain and paucity of information on flight status.
Faced with public ire and regulatory scrutiny, IndiGo flew in staff from other cities to restore its operations at Mumbai airport. Other measures included requisition for extra cars and accommodating its outstation pilots in hotels close to the airport.
"IndiGo took all measures to minimise the cancellations on these two days. This included sending staff of different categories from other stations to Mumbai, accommodating these staff members in nearby hotels. Situation today is normalising and IndiGo is taking corrective measures during the course of the day if required," the airline said in a statement.
Wednesday, however, the situation was grim. While rains and low visibility slowed down movements at Mumbai on Wednesday, the airline faced a big crisis as its pilots, cabin crew and ground staff could not report for work at the Mumbai terminal. By Wednesday afternoon, the airline's crew hotel in Santa Cruz area informed the airline it could not provide transport to pilots because of flooding in neighborhood. The airline's transport service provider too backed out. "A bus was arranged to pick up pilots from hotel to the airport but it took three hours to reach the hotel from Andheri. The pilots were ready from 3 pm but could only reach the airport by around 7 pm," a source said.
In some cases, off duty pilots who were travelling as passengers operated the IndiGo flights as the regular crew failed to reach the airport in time. "These pilots were heading to other cities to operate flights from there. The pilots underwent breath analyser test before operating the flight," the source added.
The crippling of city's transport network also resulted in ground staff not reporting to work on time. While flights were arriving at Mumbai as usual, there was no one to man step ladders or drive the buses which carry passengers to terminal. At one point there were over twenty planes on ground, some with passengers waiting to deboard.
"We just had a third of staff last evening at Mumbai," an airline source said.
IndiGo then asked other airlines for buses. "The airline got in touch with Mumbai International Airport Limited which helped in getting buses from GoAir and SpiceJet," the source added.
"Due to the intensive non-stop rains in Mumbai on September 4 and 5, the entire airport has been affected by this situation, and not just IndiGo alone. There were a total of 12 domestic departures from Mumbai that were cancelled out of 138 scheduled flights on the 4th and an additional 16 Domestic departures out of 138 scheduled flights on the 5th. No international flights were cancelled. All passengers on cancelled flights have been contacted and offered refund and accommodation," the airline added.