NEW DELHI: The aviation regulator on Friday told IndiGo Airlines to fly its planes with 15-22% seats unoccupied while operating on the Delhi-Istanbul route on strong headwind days. The budget airline’s 186-seater Airbus A320 Neos should have up to 157 passengers on board and the 222-seater A321s no more than 173 flyers on such days.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation chief Arun Kumar’s directive came after passengers on many of IndiGo’s Delhi-Istanbul flights in recent days had discovered after reaching their destination that their baggage hadn’t taken off from Delhi.

In its defence, the airline had said that due to strong headwinds, the Delhi-Istanbul flying time had been over seven hours in the past few weeks, which is close to the maximum operating range of the single-aisle Airbus A320/321s used by it. To carry more fuel, the baggage was left behind last Sunday and a few more days of all or most of the passengers, it added. Strong headwinds for the west-bound flights will continue for some months.

Chinmay Dabke, a passenger on the Sunday flight, had tweeted, “The airline did not load the luggage of the entire flight. Not a single passenger got their luggage…My father has his medication in his luggage.” Replying to him, Manoj Jaiswal, who travelled on an IndiGo flight a day before, tweeted, “We haven’t received the bags yet… We are now stranded with family (old and kids) in a different country with no basics, medicines. It’s a big mess.”

The airline has sent an individual letter of regret to each affected passenger along with a coupon of Rs 5,000, which can be used in their future travels, an IndiGo official said. The airline operates two daily flights between Delhi and Istanbul. Turkish Airlines is the only other carrier to fly on the route but doesn’t face this trouble as it uses wide-body planes.

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Headwinds and tailwinds are major factors for fuel burn and flying time. Flying to the west takes longer than flying east on most days. For this reason, Air India’s Delhi-San Francisco flight frequently takes the Pacific route to the US and flies back to Delhi over the Atlantic to get tailwinds all the way and save fuel.





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