The indefinite strike called by the Airports Authority of India Union largely failed to affect services at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) but passengers were seen complaining at the international terminal on Wednesday.
The international terminal was the worst hit while there were fewer problems at the domestic terminal. Passengers at the international terminal had to wade their way through garbage heaps and the elderly and the sick faced problems due to non-availability of wheelchairs.
Almost all flights operated on time. About 1,400 employees of the AAI employees went on an indefinite strike from Wednesday midnight after talks with the government failed on Tuesday night.
“After we touched down at the airport I had to wait for about two hours to get a wheelchair. After a long flight from USA, this was the last thing I had expected. I am old and sick, they should have made some arrangements at least for people like us,” said 85-year-old Sudershan Katiyar who arrived at the airport from USA.
Other passengers claimed that the toilets were stinking and there was a heap of garbage lying outside. “When I went inside the toilet, it was stinking. Toilet papers and other stuff were lying around. There was no one to clean up the mess. We had to call an attendant from outside to clean it,” said Ramneet Sandhu, a resident of Hyderabad.
Passengers also claimed that they had to stand for hours to claim their baggage. There was no one to operate the conveyor belts. “Though my flight landed two hours ago I had to wait for my baggage at the conveyor belt. The flight information display system was not working. We ran from one counter to another to claim our baggage,” said RK Singh who had arrived from Thailand.
The operations at the domestic terminal were smooth enough. “My flight reached on time. I did not face any problems while claiming my baggage,” said Kadir Vellu, a resident of Chennai who arrived from an Air Deccan flight.
Passengers at the domestic terminal also said there were porters around to help them with their baggage. “The washroom was clean. My flight landed on time,” said Harender Jadhav who landed by a Spicejet flight.
The members of the employee union who went on an indefinite strike that they termed as 'non-cooperation,' shouted slogans against the government. A posse of police and paramilitary force had been pressed into service to curb any untoward incident. As many as 250 flights arrived and 120 flights took off on time from the IGI airport from 5.30 am till 5 pm on Wednesday.
There were reports of infighting among the union members as many of them reported for work and joined the agitation after they finished work. The AAI employees who went on strike were working at pump houses, aerobridges, cargo, telephone exchanges and other attendants.
Flight services unaffected across the country
The first day of the strike called by employees of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to protest against the impending closure of the old airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore later this month, failed to make any impact on flight services across the country. However, with no cleaners around, some airports began to wear a distinctly soiled look as the day progressed.
From Srinagar to Thiruvananthapuram, from Ahmedabad to Guwahati, flights took off and landed on time. Most airport managements had made contingency arrangements to cope with the absence of regular airport staff. At several places Indian Air Force personnel were deployed, at others the fire services were called in. Everywhere airline employees went the extra distance to ensure passengers were not inconvenienced. “We have brought in trained staff from the IAF and everything is under control,” said JP Alex, director of the Raja Bhoj Airport, Bhopal.
But the toilets remained dirty, the garbage bins overflowed, litter remained strewed all over the floor in several airports. “The place stinks,” said Imtiaz at Hyderabad airport, waiting to catch a flight to Delhi. The situation is bound to worsen if the strike continues.