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What was behind overcrowding and chaos at Delhi airport

COMMENT: Something is not up and up. For several weeks now overcrowding and serpentine queues during peak hours have been reported at immigration and security checks from major airports like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Passengers are missing flights. On Monday also Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia rushed to Terminal 3 of the IGI Airport in Delhi to see for himself what is amiss.

Peak hour or no peak hour, the airport gives permission for airlines to schedule their flights according to its capacity. And, only those passengers who have booked their tickets will go to the airport. No issue about that. (And, the volume is less than that of pre-covid) The crowding is at the check points. But the ruling clerks decided that the number of flights should be reduced to solve the problem of overcrowding at the check points!!!

Where is the catch? A simple and honest Minister, Scindia looks flummoxed. There is also a multiplicity of 'cross-purpose' authorities at the airport and various remote power centres are pulling the strings!

Tailpiece: Sack the Ministry of clerks, first. We need airport operator, airlines and an aviation regulator, who will be directly answerable to the Minister. Neither the legions of clerks, nor the remotely controlled security personnel. We had done it once in the past, elsewhere.

Let a work culture usher in on its own, as the Americans had prescribed to us decades ago!

NEW DELHI, Dec 12: As the chaos due to overcrowding continued for the second week, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia made a surprise visit to Terminal 3 of Delhi’s IGI airport (Indira Gandhi International Airport) on Monday also.

As the overcrowding at several airports during busy hours has become unmanageable ostensibly due to increase in air traffic, the Aviation Ministry last week asked the airlines to reduce flights at peak hours and reschedule them. (In fact, the air traffic volume has not reached the pre-covid levels.) The airports affected by the reported rush, especially because of the holiday season, are Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

In Delhi, passengers said they had to wait for two to three hours in the clearance area before the final departure of the flight. This is going on for over a week.

Having to wait for hours in the clearing area, some passengers missed their flights on Saturday.

The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said, "Additional manpower requirements will also have to be addressed by all stakeholders, including CISF and Immigration, to further improve the situation.” That includes deployment of additional systems. T3 operates 500 domestic and 250 international flights with a daily passenger load of around two lakhs. On its side, DIAL wants Phase 3A expansion plan to be expedited.

The airlines were also asked by the Ministry to increase the strength of their ground staff. Additional two X-ray machines have been installed at the T3 Terminal in Delhi. There are currently 14 X-ray screening machines. Additional manpower has also been deployed in the Automatic Tray Return Systems (ATRS) area. Two more entry gates will also be opened for passengers at Terminal 3. More traffic police will be deployed at the departure forecourt to avoid vehicular congestion.

Speaking at an event in Indore on Saturday, the Aviation Minister said some airports are facing congestion and the bunching of flights during peak hours will be avoided by rescheduling. He asked the airports to increase the number of security officials and trolley capacity at entry points.

The use of DigiYatra (face recognition) for seamless and contactless travel through the airport need to be encouraged. The more people use DigiYatra, the less will be the congestion at the airports, the Minister said.

The Minister had also held a detailed discussion with the heads of all major Indian airports, CISF and immigration officials on the issue of decongesting the airports. He had also visited Delhi T3 terminal with a team of officials on Friday.

According to a TOI report, the Delhi airport operator, Delhi International Airport Ltd, is planning to reduce 33 flights - 14 from Terminal 3, 11 from Terminal 2 and eight from Terminal 1 - of rush hours. Some flights may be shifted from T3 to T1 or T2. T3 terminal handles 503 domestic and 253 international flights daily. The traffic is, in fact, only just close to the pre-covid levels.

Air passengers have been complaining of undue delays and long serpentine queues at major airports.

"Delhi Airport is becoming one of the world’s most disorganized and frustrating airports for international travel, with very long lines before immigration and security. Politicians and senior bureaucrats don’t see the nightly scenes of chaos as they use VIP facilities," one of the twitteratis posted.

"Delhi airport is just crazy... it resembles fish market, Serpentine queue at every level n non cooperating Staff of @airvistara Inspite of reaching one n half hour early they did not let me board the flight," another one wrote.

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