Friday, December 18, 2009

Security grounds flyers

Security grounds flyers
A huge rush of passengers at security check resulted in many missing their flights to various destinations
MANASI PARESH KUMAR


If you are going to catch an early morning flight at Bengaluru International Airport (BIA), reaching an hour early is not enough if you are out of luck. Many passengers found this out at their own peril on Thursday morning as they missed their flights to various destinations between 5.30 am and 7 am. Reason: A heavy rush of passengers who were stuck at the security check!
Bhairav Shant, head of strategic alliance in a private firm, was supposed to catch a 6.10 am Indigo flight to New Delhi for an important meeting. “I reached the airport at 5.20 am. Since I am a business traveller with no luggage to check in and have only hand baggage, I usually reach the airport about 40 minutes before and I am able to check in without any hassles. But when I reached the airport, there was absolute chaos,” he said.
ESCALATORS OFF
The twin lines of passengers waiting for security clearance had snaked down to the counters issuing the boarding pass on the ground floor! “The escalators were switched off for people to stand on. It was like entering a local train in Mumbai. I reached the counter to collect my boarding pass and was told very politely that even if I was given the boarding pass, I would not be able to go through security clearance in time,” he said.
With no other choice, he got a last-minute ticket to Delhi for the 6.40 am JetLite flight to New Delhi. “I ended up paying more than Rs 6,000 for the ticket from my pocket because the Indigo flight took off as scheduled and my ticket was non-refundable,” was his complaint.
SURGE IN FOOTFALLS
According to sources in the BIA, the passenger footfall on Thursday morning had gone up by 80 per cent. “Usually the number of passengers who board early morning flights are close to 2,000 between 6 am and 7.30am. But on Thursday, that number was close to 3,500 passengers. The average time for the last passenger to clear security is about eight minutes but on Thursday, it was close to 15 minutes. There was a problem with people getting to their flights,” said the official.
But for Bhairav, who took another 50 minutes to get into his alternative flight, was not amused. “I was very worried about missing this flight as well because the security clearance was going at a snail’s pace. I had back-to- back appointments at Delhi and could not afford to miss this flight as well. It took a lot of cajoling to make it to the flight. I was not the only one who had this problem. Many of my fellow passengers with the Indigo flight also had to miss their ride because of the problem,” he said.
SPACE CRUNCH
The BIA is already facing a severe crunch of air space as it races towards saturation point. The airport, which is equipped to deal with about 400 flights every day, is already recording 295 flights currently. More number of airlines, including Air China and Qatar Airways, are also looking to expand their operations to Bangalore. Aviation experts say this will mean an increase of more than 10 per cent of annual air traffic that the airport is equipped to deal with.
Add to this, the facility is now woefully short of being able to deal with passenger footfalls as well on a regular day. With two long weekends coming up for Christmas and New Year, passengers who plan to fly through BIA are in for a rough ride.

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