Strong winds divert flights

PETALING JAYA - Some 17 flights were diverted from the KL International Airport following exceptionally strong winds on Sunday.

Some aircraft even had to make their landings at other runways at the KLIA due to the unusually strong winds on Sunday night.

The increased workload - to manage the landing planes - caused pilots of other aircraft still in the air to seek permission from KLIA to land at other airports due to low fuel.

The situation snowballed when an accident occurred at the Kesas highway, leading to a massive jam and so, taxis were late in getting to the airport.

Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement that 7.5 per cent of the flights that day were diverted to other airports in Subang, Penang and Senai, Johor.

He said the change in wind direction, between 17 and 25 knots, required such a move.

"Winds blowing at 17 knots meant that its speed was about 31.5km an hour."

Azharuddin said aircraft with low "holding fuel" were diverted to alternate airports for re-fueling.

"To reduce congestion and avoid unnecessary fuel burn, flights leaving and arriving at KLIA from nearby airports were asked to delay their departures during that period," he added.

A DCA official said it was a norm for planes to be directed to other runways during strong winds, which occurred once or twice a month.

AirAsia had said in its Facebook page that numerous flights due to land at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang were also diverted "due to unexpected change in weather, resulting in severe air traffic congestion".

The situation returned to normal yesterday with the KLIA flight information board listing only a few delayed or cancelled flights.

Penang International Airport senior manager Mohd Ariff Jaafar said five flights were diverted to Penang from about 4pm to 9pm on Sunday.

"Since KLIA and the LCCT share the same runway, the situation affected both airports," he said.

AirAsia X chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said airport authorities would put passengers' safety first.

"A delay is better than not arriving at all," she added.