The de facto strike by employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at the Begumpet airport in Hyderabad had no impact on air traffic on Wednesday morning although passengers faced some inconvenience at the terminal.
"No flight was cancelled or rescheduled due to the strike. Everything is normal though the passengers are facing some inconveniences due to the strike by aerobridge operators. There are also no people to handle luggage trolleys," airport director AK Singla told IANS.
About 25 flights had taken off and landed at the airport since Tuesday midnight, when all 270 AAI employees joined the nationwide stir to press their demand for continuing operations at the existing airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore after new airports in the two cities become functional in a few weeks.
VS Gupta, secretary of the Hyderabad branch of the AAI Employees' Union, however, claimed that the strike had resulted in delays in departures and arrivals of flights. He said 150 casual workers also joined them in the strike.
The striking employees include those from fire fighting, electrical, mechanical, safety, land management, finance and commercial sections.
AAI officials said they have made alternate arrangements to ensure that the air traffic is not affected by the strike. They have deployed 32 Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel for crucial operations like fire fighting, aircraft marshalling and operating special vehicles on the tarmac.
The employees' union has warned that deployment of 'unskilled' people could lead to mishaps.
"Without proper skills how can they handle an emergency? Fire fighting at airports requires special skills. Only AAI employees can do that. If something happens they (officials) will blame us," Gupta told IANS.
The airport at Begumpet in the heart of the city is to be closed down once the new international airport at Shamshabad becomes operational on March 16.
The airport handles 250 aircraft movements every day. It handled seven million passengers in 2007-08.
Hours before the employees began the nation-wide stir, the government of India on Tuesday issued a notification for closure of the existing airport.
GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL), the developer of the new international airport, said it has received the civil aviation ministry's approval to commence operations from March 16.
The AAI employees are demanding that the central government pull out of an agreement with the GMR-led consortium, which stipulates that the existing airport will be shut down once the airport at Shamshabad, about 35 km from Begumpet, becomes functional.
They want the existing airport to continue operations as it was making a good profit. "The new airport is only to favour a private company. Where is the need to close down the existing airport when it is making good profits," asked Gupta.