In the last one month, since the announcement of the Lok Sabha polls, the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport here has seen a 40 per cent increase in the operation of private jets and helicopters, all ferrying political leaders to and from their rallies. With a VVIP queue every morning, the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) is working overtime to schedule these flights.
Topping the list is Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda with 13 flights each. BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who alleged a conspiracy after his chopper was reportedly delayed by over an hour recently, has logged 10 flights so far. Among the others who have shown considerable movement to and from IGIA are BJP president Rajnath Singh and BSP chief Mayawati.
ATC officials pointed out that these private flights are not always scheduled. According to these officials, pilots of chartered flights need to send a request for take-off or landing at least two hours in advance. But in poll season, the permissions are sought barely 45 minutes in advance, making it difficult for them to reschedule flights.
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Pilots often use the excuse of “low fuel” to ensure their flights are given priority landing. “We have no choice but to make arrangements,” said a source, adding that non-scheduled traffic is up by nearly 40 per cent.
An official cited an instance when a party leader created a ruckus at the airport for about 20 minutes as his flight was held up. “His flight didn’t have fire safety clearance. Despite telling him this, he created a scene,” he said.
There are approximately 850 flights operating in and out of IGIA every day.