There is hope for passengers passing through Delhi’s international airport. The company carrying out the modernization project has promised to open more gates to let in people, employ staff to assist them through the overcrowded terminal, and provide more baggage trolleys.
The commitment was made after the government reacted to Hindustan Times’s public interest campaign against the conditions at the airport, and pulled up the company, a top official said on Tuesday evening.
Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) will also immediately increase the number of immigration counters to 28 from the existing 18, double the number of security-check counters to 16 from 8, and take steps to improve baggage screening, K.N. Srivastava, joint secretary (airports) at the civil aviation ministry said after a meeting with company representatives.
The meeting was called after the Hindustan Times highlighted how immigration and baggage screening take the most time and spawn the longest queues at the terminal. HT ran a series of reports through last week describing the woes of thousands of passengers, many of whom missed flights and fainted in the claustrophobic interiors of the airport. Continuous delays in take-offs had prompted airlines to protest.
“DIAL had cited shortage of manpower as a reason for not operating all immigration counters. We have asked them to increase their manpower so that additional immigration counters are made functional,” Srivastava said.
He added that DIAL would now work with the Central Industrial Security Force to ensure smooth flow of vehicular traffic to and from the airport.
DIAL told the government that the changes in the construction plan would mean a slight delay in completing the modernization project.
“We discussed issues ranging from car parking to boarding the aircraft. The number of entry points inside the airport concourse, check-in counters, baggage handling will be improved. We will now carry out renovation in smaller portions of the airport rather than handle big portions as it will not leave the passenger inconvenienced,” a DIAL official told Hindustan Times.
Significantly, Srivastava admitted the government had been lax in monitoring the modernization process. But he promised measures were being initiated to minimise passenger inconvenience.
“For them (the GMR group which is building the new airport) there has been a mismatch in what they had promised to do and what they have been able to deliver. There have been some lapses on our part. Very regular visits to the airport from our side were also required,” Srivastava said.
He added that the “oversight group to monitor the Operations, Management and Development Agreement (the yard stick to monitor the progress of airport development) that meets every fortnight to review the progress will meet more often now”.
The government is also contemplating using the Haj terminal to cope with the increased traffic.
“We will discuss with the airlines as to how we can make the best use of the Haj terminal,” Srivastava said.