Faster processes at Indian Airports
Once fully-government owned airports, those in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kochi are now operated under a public private partnership with the government. Bengaluru and Mumbai are managed by GVK, while Hyderabad and Delhi by GMR. Kochi, however, is run jointly with the public, wherein passionately patriotic residents pooled in money for its upgrade. This is perhaps why its expansion is not as fast as its counterparts.
Let’s take a look at how these airports are making travel easier for their passengers.
BANGALORE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT/KEMPEGOWDA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Some two months ago, Business Traveller India reported about HeliTaxii, a helicopter taxi service in Bengaluru. Operated by Thumby Aviation, it carries passengers between Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) and Electronic City in a six-seater Bell 407 helicopter.
For the 15-minute journey, a ticket price of `3,500 (plus taxes) per person, sounds steep. But a chat with Govind Nair, director of business development at Thumby Aviation reveals that the service doesn’t have a niche audience after all.
“We were quite surprised to receive bookings from families and foreign tourists too, apart from the usual VIPs and HNIs,” he said when chatting about Bengaluru’s unpredictable traffic being one factor to launch this service. By road, the journey between the two locations lasts two hours if not more. The second reason for the launch of HeliTaxii, as Nair simply puts it is: “Skyways are the future of travel.”
At the time of its launch, Jayant Sinha, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation said: “Following the example of BLR Airport, we would like to see similar services being introduced at other airports in the country that will make travel simpler for passengers.”
Bringing another service to the airport is Flybus (run by the state’s KSRTC). The luxury Volvo has an “in-bus” chemical toilet, live display of flight timings, and reclining seats. This service is convenient to travellers who, at the time of booking flight tickets, can book a seat (`800 onwards) on the bus from BIAL to Karnataka’s smaller towns. Currently, the bus connects the airport to Mysuru, Madikeri, Mangalore, Kundapur, Coimbatore and Salem, and has additional services from other parts of the city.
For those who choose taxis intead, BIAL was the first to allot designated parking slots and pick-up areas for taxi aggregators like Ola and Uber within the airport premises. It helps when passengers no longer need to cross over the airport boundaries and onto the road for a taxi, or be restricted to take the more expensive pre-paid taxi service.
On the digital front, BIAL is in the process of implementing the Aadhaar-based identification. At the time of booking your flight, your Aadhaar number is paired with your air ticket, so you can walk through security check points instead of waiting in queue for a security personnel to physically screen you. Details of how it will work will be revealed on finalisation, just before implementation. What has been confirmed though is that with Aadhaar-based identification, security checks from check-in to boarding the aircraft can be completed in ten minutes, which is 15 minutes less than the time it currently takes. BIAL says, “We are in the process of identifying a partner for execution. Once implemented, we will be the first airport in the country to verify passengers through the Aadhaarenabled entry.”
Another process under trial is Smart Security Lane. The integrated system combines cabin baggage X-ray machines, an automated tray return system and an intelligent image screen on which handbags’ items are examined for threat by a security personnel. Through the use of advanced computer technology and with the aide of CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) – India’s law enforcement civilian agency, hand baggage screening time will be reduced by at least 60 per cent per hour. Details and when it will be implemented are unknown, but we do know that the idea is to reduce waiting
Cochin International Airport (CIAL) is India’s first greenfield airport and the first in the world to operate entirely on solar energy
time in the already crowded airport, well before the new Terminal 2 will be partly ready for use in the first quarter of 2021.
COCHIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Cochin International Airport (CIAL) is India’s first greenfield airport and the first in the world to operate entirely on solar energy. Another feather in its hat of “firsts in India” is the direct waterway connectivity that is on its way to implementation. The project is a joint venture between Kerala Waterways and Infrastructure Limited (KWIL), a special purpose vehicle, floated by the State government, jointly with CIAL. It aims at making 610km of Kerala’s waterways navigable by 2022. One of the boat terminals between Kovalam and Bekal via Kochi will be at CIAL, in addition to two other airports in the state. The committee has already initiated cleaning of the canals in certain areas to facilitate this service, thus reducing time on the road during traffic and enhancing airport accessibility locally. Once active, hopefully by the second half of 2020, passengers can board a solar-powered boat service at Kochi marine drive for the airport.
DELHI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT/INDIRA GANDHI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The media has been abuzz with news on Delhi International Airport’s (DIAL) expansion plans for Terminal 1; although not necessarily always for the right reasons with budget carriers resisting (in vain) the pressure to move operations to T2. What has been well understood through this is that T1 was handling 20 per cent more than its full capacity of 20 million passengers per annum. International operations at DIAL run out of T1 and T3 both, the latter too running to its full capacity. By moving a third of budget airlines’ domestic operations to underutilised T2, load on T1 reduces, allowing expansion work to begin for doubling its capacity.
DIAL is working on three more services to reduce crowding at the airport. Under trial is the bag-tag service. This benefits passengers who have checked in online or at DIAL’s self-check-in kiosks, but have check-in baggage. Self-service counters just like the manned ones allow you to scan your boarding card for a bag tag before the machine accepts the check-in bag. It is still under trial and particulars such as what happens if the passenger has excess baggage (perhaps sent to the manned counter) are being worked out.
Also under testing at security check, the 18-metre long Automatic Tray Return System will reduce the time spent waiting for a personnel to collect empty trays from one end of the belt to the other. The mechanised system automatically collects and delivers empty trays like clockwork between passengers.
At the boarding area, it is unlikely one will face human interaction in the future. “Flap gates” or automated kiosks will open only after scanning your boarding card. These too are sensitive to the time and area you’re in. If the kiosk allows access to gates one to ten, those boarding from any other gate will be denied entry. Even if you’re at the right gate, but boarding doesn’t start until after a few hours, you may not be let through.
HYDERABAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT/RAJIV GANDHI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
GMR Hyderabad International Airport (GHIAL) sees benefit in employing “helpers” for an easier passenger experience. It launched Passenger is Prime (PIP) last year in April with the aim to provide them assistance anywhere in the airport for whatever their needs may be. To facilitate this, GHIAL has deployed a team of Passenger Service Associates or PSAs, clothed in turquoise green T-shirts for easy identification, primarily in the check-in, security check, transfers and security hold/ boarding amongst other areas.
SGK Kishore, CEO, GHIAL said: “Many travellers, especially those who are not frequent yers or those with special needs, sometimes nd it challenging to navigate through the many steps involved in modern air travel and they o en encounter moments of anxiety during their journey. Keeping this in mind, we have inducted a team of highly motivated trained professionals (PSAs) who are intuitive, empathetic and willing to go the extra mile for making our passengers’ journey through our airport a pleasant and hassle-free experience. Going forward, we will collaborate with other key stakeholders such as airlines, Customs, CISF and Immigration to launch more such initiatives designed to make the passengers’ journey through our airport a more safe, secure and pleasant experience.”
With CISF, GHIAL has earmarked a dedicated pre-embarkation area at the domestic terminal’s entry gate for those travelling with only handbags. On printing their boarding pass from the self-service kiosks outside the terminal building, passengers can walk through the Express Security Check lane. ey altogether skip the check-in area and head straight towards the boarding area, through the exclusive security check point for such passengers.
In case you’ve checked into Hyderabad’s Airport Novotel Hotel, you can also check-in for your ight at the Common Use Self Service (CUSS) machines at the hotel – a rst of its kind in India. is is subject to having a con rmed outbound ticket for domestic travel. e CUSS machine prints out the boarding card for you. Basically, it works just as any online self-check-in service would, only, you can leave ight details with the hotel to help you check-in for your ight ahead of time. Supplementing this service is the selfbaggage drop centre at the airport, which is in the pilot phase and initially for domestic passengers.
GHIAL will eventually catch up with international airport standards. Its e-boarding facility does away with the mandatory stamping of the boarding pass at security check, as is the continued practice in the rest of India. Instead, electronic gates let you through on sliding the boarding card over them. It speeds up the security check process by not having to individually walk to a personnel for stamping.
For those needing assistance with their bags, GHIAL has 12 paid porters in bright orange uniforms available round the clock at both departures and arrivals of the integrated, singular domestic and international terminal. e service starts from `200 and is charged as per the size and number of bags.
MUMBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT/CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Common Use Self Service (CUSS) machines at Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) are already in place at domestic and international check-in areas. A few airlines have integrated with this service. Here, passengers can check themselves in for their ight, print their boarding pass, weigh their own bags and get baggage tags that track checked in luggage. is reduces their wait time, especially during peak hours, thereby avoiding serpentine queues.
A smartphone app available on iOS and Android platforms is equipped with augmented technology. Allow it access to your phone’s camera, hold it up to see what you’re seeing and it will tell you exactly where you are or what the shop, eatery or business is about. On entering ight details, it leads you to your desired destination
On printing their boarding pass from the self-service kiosks outside the terminal building, passengers can walk through the Express Security Check lane
within the airport, updates on real-time information such as ight delays and tells you how far you are from the boarding gate. List of services at the airport amongst others can be accessed through the app.
e job of an Automatic Tray Return System is currently being done by an appointed person who collects all empty trays and brings them to those waiting in queue at security check and handbag screening. e service is not yet available, but is in its nal testing. It will not only reduce the number of airport sta , but will also eliminate chances of waiting for an empty tray, thus holding up the line.
ere is one more service for passengers worth mentioning, though it isn’t technology related. It involves three Golden Retriever dogs. From FridaySunday, in the evening until midnight, the canines make rounds of domestic arrival and departure areas to comfort nervous yers.
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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Rajeev Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad and e-boarding gate there; and self check-in kiosk at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi
LEFT AND RIGHT: Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai and its self baggage drop kiosks