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Indian capital smog forces United Airlines to cancel flights

Sheetal Sukhija - Sunday 12th November, 2017

NEW DELHI, India - With India’s capital city, New Delhi covered in toxic smog, turning it into a ‘gas chamber’, now United Airlines has cancelled flights to New Delhi.

The airline has cancelled flights and said in an advisory issued on its website that travel to New Delhi has been suspended through at least Tuesday. 

For United Airlines, the smog concerns in the Indian capital are on par with environmental disasters like hurricanes and volcanoes - which is a risk to be avoided. 

According to the company, it was letting passengers switch flights without charge or helping them find seats on other carriers.

The company said in a statement, “United has temporarily suspended our Newark-Delhi flights due to poor air quality concerns in Delhi and currently has waiver policies in place for customers who are traveling to, from or through Delhi. We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency, and are coordinating with respective government agencies.”

However, so far, it is unclear if other airlines would cancel flights too, and no such announcements have been made by Virgin Atlantic, KLM and Etihad Airlines.

The air quality in the Indian capital city is consistently ranked among the world’s worst, however, a perfect storm of problems is exacerbating the problem to potentially deadly levels. 

According to local reports, farmers who’ve recently harvested crops in neighboring states are illegally burning their fields, sending smoke into the air. 

Further, construction projects and pollution from vehicles in the city that lacks adequate public transportation are making things worse.

Reports noted that this week, the cover of smog in the capital city was ten times worse than reigning pollution champion Beijing, whose air-quality problems reached massive proportions. 

Experts noted that some parts of New Delhi have pollution 40 times the World Health Organization-recommended safe level.

Since experts warned about the rising smog levels, over 6,000 schools have been ordered closed in the city, and only trucks carrying essential supplies have been allowed into the city. 

Further, even construction projects have been halted in the city. 

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