The civil aviation authorities should focus on providing better facilities at the airports, not on bragging about the scale of their operations
V V SUNDAR
The Indian aviation industry is now a farce. The recent disgraceful alleged incident involving an “unruly” passenger on Air India, an airline leaving behind a busload of passengers and flying off, the systematic chaos at Delhi International Airport (DIAL), and the frequent and unreported incidents at other airports all raise one question. What direction is the industry taking? What exactly does a passenger receive from these airports in exchange for paying the passenger terminal fee? How do airlines handle their obligations? What is being done to make travel safer and less stressful? Airports and airlines in India clearly do not provide the level of service that is expected of them. The stress of the journey begins and continues as a result of how airports handle ground situations.
Who needs the lofty titles and laurels of being the world's “busiest” or “best” airport? Passengers would prefer a more “efficient” airport! The “busiest” airport benefits only the operator and not the customer.
Consider our opulent airports, which appear to have heralded, albeit in reverse, a revolution. Despite the grandiose nature of many modern airports, inefficiency seems to be widespread. Aviation was created to change the way people travel by allowing them to travel long distances in a fraction of the time it would take by other means. Airports appear to put a dent in this theory.
They waste most of the passengers' valuable time and energy. Even for domestic travel, airlines and airports have set a reporting time of 2-3 hours. It is an unacceptable step back. Isn't it strange that in that amount of time, one can land on a foreign shore? The scales established by airlines and airport operators are only self-serving, without putting the customer at the center.
Ironically and equally fascinating are how technology has advanced to the point where it can detect if one's heart valves need to be repaired, while airport x-ray machines still can't see through the bags and force us to go through the rather antiquated process of removing articles from cabin baggage as well as our jackets, belts, boots, and socks. Such mindless checks are an insult to any civilized process. It is a form of public humiliation that we have all come to accept as necessary.
Are we saying that the deployed man and machine are so skeptical of each other that they want to double-check that the passenger isn't a criminal on a mission? It calls into question both men's and machines' capabilities. Handlers at x-ray machines are unfamiliar with the objects or electronics that must be handled properly.
Many of us have seen the airport's general atmosphere deteriorate in recent years. The serpentine lines and cramped quarters give you a headache, but the lack of air circulation exacerbates the situation. In the dead of winter in Delhi, one can easily sweat in one's jacket while navigating the lines. What advantages does this have for passengers?
Practical solutions, such as displaying the estimated time it will take to clear passengers or the crowd size inside the check-in and security areas, can be beneficial. Passengers' stress levels will be reduced if they are cleared in the order in which the airline or destination departs in real-time.
The passenger is entirely on his own until the end of the boarding. Rather, it should be the responsibility of the airline and airport operators to own the customer once he is inside the airport and make his journey safe, secure, and hassle-free in exchange for the cost of the ticket and taxes he has paid. That's the bare minimum any service provider is expected to do.
Why should a passenger be made to suffer because he or she is flying a specific airline and bunched like sardines with other airlines that have peak capacity at that hour? Essentially, why should every airline passenger pass through the same rabbit hole? These are systems designed for a different era with the sole purpose of saving money. It is time to review the procedures that create friction and stress and eliminate them.
We don't want silent airports; we want upbeat airports. airports that are conscious of customer needs and that are practical. We want airports that deliver speed, efficiency, and care from the moment the passenger enters the terminal until they depart.
Alas, the airport operators and airlines are not catering to these issues. Negligence and air rage are direct and indirect results of the broken, negligent, and hands-off attitude of the airport, airlines, and stakeholders.
(The writer is a communications specialist based in New Delhi, a travel writer, and an aviation geek. The views expressed are personal)