Soon, hire a guide to board Air India flights
Air India passengers, even those travelling economy class, will soon be able to hire assistants to help complete check-in formalities, escort them through the security check and immigration, wait with them at airline lounges and steer them to their boarding gates in golf carts.
An Air India official aware of the development said the services could cost between Rs 2,500 and Rs 5,000 per passenger, depending on the facilities availed.
The state-owned airline has designed AI Sahyog Service for a category of passengers who wouldn’t mind paying a bit extra for negotiating their way through the airport in comfort.
The service will also be available to passengers of other airlines as well, the official added.
Earlier this year, the civil aviation ministry approved a “meet and greet” plan, under which airports across the country were allowed to hire a company for the facilitation of passengers at a price that entitles them to additional services.
“Initially, the service will be offered at Delhi and Mumbai airports for departing, arriving and transiting passengers. Air India will continue to offer free assistance to passengers requiring special care/attention due to any physical injury or disability as mandated in DGCA rules,” the Air India official, who didn’t want to be named, said. DGCA is short for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Some private companies are already offering such services at Delhi airport after the new meet and greet initiative took effect earlier this year.
“Most of the business comes through our tie-ups with hospitals and travel agents as passengers are still not aware of the new facility. We also give lounge access and golf cart (buggy) service and will soon launch the service at other airports as well,” said Bhavya Kukreja, head of marketing at Plaza Premium Group that runs lounges at airports across the world and also operates Allways, a meet and greet service at Delhi airport.
Departing passengers are received in the parking area and provided assistance at every point until they board the plane. Similarly, those arriving are received on the aero-bridge and ushered out.
“Earlier, there was no procedure to issue an airport entry pass to a person to facilitate passengers. Commercial entities, mostly hotels, are given commercial passes, but even then they are allowed to receive passengers only from the customs area. Now, we have started giving all-area passes to employees of the meet and greet companies,” said a civil aviation ministry official on the condition of anonymity.
The official added that only one company per airport will be given the licence for providing the services. Airport operators will have to set their own rates for the services.
“Such services are available at airports round the world. In India, they exist in an unorganised manner. Now, it will be organised — the company can have a tie-up with a lounge, it will also be able to provide access to the first-class lane, where there is hardly any queue, for frisking, ” said an official from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
The porter service will continue and so will the wheelchair facility provided by airlines for elderly or physically challenged passengers.