Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shortage of staff renders scanner redundant at airport

Shortage of staff renders scanner redundant at airport

The Hindu

Long queues frustrate passengers at international departure terminal

# Passengers advised to be at the airport three hours before the departure of the flight
# AAI scanner lying idle because there are no trained personnel to operate them

BANGALORE: Wondered why you had to wait endlessly in that serpentine queue outside the HAL airport's international departure terminal? Because, only one of the two X-ray scanners inside is being used while one perfectly working machine sits idle unmindful of the collective travel worries of the waiting passengers.

The Hindu discovered that two Air India personnel operated the working scanner and the second machine owned by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was idle for want of manpower.

International airlines, barring British Airways and Sri Lankan Airlines, are forced to rely on the Air India scanner because they had no manpower or scanners of their own. The machine operators had to be trained men approved by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Paucity of space

When contacted, a top Air India official at the airport blamed paucity of space and men for not using the second scanner. But he claimed that the machine was operated when "required." Since the machine was installed just at the entrance of the departure terminal, a canopy was necessary to provide cover to a second queue of passengers waiting outside.

With hardly any space outside, the canopy was ruled out. "There is no space even for five to six passengers to stand with their luggage," the official said.

Sources said the AAI had urged some of the international airlines discontinue the contract with Air India and look for alternative facilities. But the solution was not so easy. Indian had its own scanner, but was not ready to get into any contract with other airlines. As the Air India official put it, even if the X-ray scanners worked, the rush could not be controlled.


The result: unending queues in front of the departure terminal, adding to the chaos. Passengers bound for West Asia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and other countries were forced to slug it out with their bags and baggage. Tension writ large over their faces, the passengers often worry whether they would report for the flight on time. A Sydney-bound passenger, who arrived just an hour before the flight departure, was shocked to see the long queue that stretched across the length of the airport building. But she had to join in, pushing her luggage behind a crowd that had Japanese businessmen, Chinese tourists and Australian activists jostle for space with cars and pickup vehicles. The cacophony of the vehicles, some parked, some moving, made it worse.

The latest extension of the airport terminal space meant there would be more seats and counters inside. But outside, the terminal expansion took away even the standing space. The peak hour traffic of international flights between 9.30 p.m. and the early hours of the next day brings hordes of passengers during a short period, increasing the pressure on the airport infrastructure.

Waiting time

Sensing trouble, the airport authorities had advised passengers to reach the place at least three hours before their flights. Yet, many passengers unaware of the airport problems end up arriving late or at the usual time. The scene at the airport never fails to shock them.


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