Air travellers may face a harrowing time at airports across the country, including Delhi, after March this year, as airlines and the civil aviation ministry continue to be at loggerheads over appointment of ground staffs.
Sources said flyers will have a tough time and should expect delays and cancellations if passes of ground staff are not renewed by the Bureau for Civil Aviation Security (BCAS).
Ground staff are issued airport entry pass by BCAS after recommendation from airlines. There are about 5,000 ground staff at Delhi airport alone, most of whom are outsourced.
“There will be absolute mayhem that will cause disruption of flights and lead to severe panic and hardships among travellers,” the federation of Indian airlines has told the civil aviation ministry in a letter.
BCAS had earlier refused to extend airport pass for ground handling agents who were outsourced. After repeated requests, it has extended entry permit for such staff till March 2017 only. As per the new aviation policy, airlines can only hire staff from three registered ground handling agency. But since the policy has not been implemented yet, airlines have no idea as to where they need to hire ground staff from.
“Ground staff plays a crucial role for the on-time performance of an airline. They clean aircrafts, load/unload baggage and in some cases even look after security. If we have just three agencies to choose from, the cost will be high, which low cost carriers cannot afford. We are not against the policy, but we will need at least a year for this transition,” said Ujjwal Dey, associate director of the federation.
BCAS official said that they will give licences to three ground handling agencies and airlines will have to hire ground staff from them only. “Since, most of them hire on their own, it has led to an increase in crowd at the airside. This compromises the security and that is why the new policy talks about limited agencies,” said a BCAS official.
The deadline for outsourced staff was December 31, 2016 but it was later extended till March 31, 2017. The move will also lead to job cuts. As per the policy, the airport operator will ensure that there are just three ground handling agencies, including Air India’s subsidiary, at all major airports. Non-major airports are exempted from minimum number of ground handlers. Airport operator will decide on the numbers, based on the traffic output, airside and terminal building capacity.
Airlines said that the move will lead to cost escalation as the ground handlers will charge the amount they want to.
“The airlines will continue expanding their operations. It is hence crucial that airlines not only maintain their strength of ground handlers but also increase their capacity. So, we need at least 12 months from the date of order for smooth transition,” Dey added.