United Airlines suspends operations to smog-hit Delhi


In what appears to be a rare case in aviation history, United Airlines on Friday scrubbed its direct, non-stop Newark-New Delhi flight, citing air quality issues in India's capital.

The United airlines operates Boeing 777 a 267-seated aircraft on the route from Newark to Delhi comprising of 14 hours of journey.

The airline said it was temporarily suspending all flights to Delhi as the region is under a health emergency.

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The airline is also transferring affected passengers to other airlines.

Posting an official notice on their website, United said it was issuing waivers for customers who planned to travel to, from or through New Delhi between November 9 and 13. "We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency and are coordinating with respective government agencies", United Airlines spokesperson said.

The company stated that at times when severe weather or major events seem to impact operations, it issues travel waivers to allow the passengers change to alternate flights without paying any changing fee.

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The "foreign travel advice" section of the United Kingdom government's website, gov.uk, says, "Severe air pollution is a major hazard to public health in Delhi, and a serious concern in many Indian cities".

Assocham, which has recently interacted with 350 tour operators, said: "International tourists are quite particular about their health and safety".

Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox & Kings, "We are not seeing any cancellations from tourists at this point. Even domestic tourists are avoiding Delhi". Delhi schools were shut for the week.

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As per the data collected from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi's average Air Quality Index (AQI) at 3 pm today was 423 (on a scale of 0 to 500) while the PM2.5 (particles with diameter less than 2.5) hovered around 422 units, considered "severe".