Home/ News / India/  Centre works to fix airport crowding as air travel soars

The civil aviation ministry has crafted a three-step plan to tackle airport congestion, at a time the industry anticipates record demand during the summer months and after. The government is keen to prevent the kind of long queues and frayed nerves witnessed at major airports in December.

“The approach is to first have a higher number of screening points to ensure distribution of air passengers entering the terminal building. The second step is to implement a digitalized pre-queuing process; and finally, to limit the number of flights during peak demand hours," an official aware of the plans said.

The government is also keen on air tickets with digital codes that can be scanned at the airport entry to reduce queues. Meanwhile, aviation authorities are nudging their home ministry counterparts to increase the number of security personnel at the airports and expand infrastructure to reduce waiting time inside the terminal, the official cited above said on condition of anonymity.

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The government has already approved a plan to increase Central Industrial Security Force personnel at airports by over 2,000 during summer. Currently, about 30,000 CISF personnel guard 66 airports across the country.

As winding queues appeared inside terminals and outside last December, airports opened more entry gates and added X-ray machines at security areas. However, domestic air traffic is expected to keep climbing, requiring additional measures to prevent a repeat of the scenario in busy periods such as April-June and October-December.

Domestic airlines carried a record 13 million passengers in March, up by over 11% from the corresponding months in 2018 and 2019, data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation showed. March air passenger traffic was also 7% higher than in February, and 21% from a year ago.

“We had crossed pre-covid highs of 420,000. We are in an off high season, but are averaging daily air passengers of 370,000-440,000 over the past month. The way I look at it, in October, we will be at new highs again. So, we have got to plan for October," Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union minister for civil aviation, told Mint in an interview.

Authorities are also working to install modern scanning equipment at security areas so that travellers do not have to take out electronic devices from their bags before screening.

“The mandate is to ensure installation of these devices at airports by December. The priority is to have such machines installed at the metro airports first and the procurement action is going on gradually," the official cited above added.

There are also plans to utilize Digi Yatra—the contactless ID system recently introduced to ease airport entry—to eliminate physical checking of boarding passes before passengers proceed for security checks.

“The idea is to ensure that all printed tickets, whether issued by airlines or travel agents, have a barcode, which can be scanned at the digital check points in the pre-queueing area. This will save the time that a security personnel takes to verify passengers," another official aware of the matter said.

Such a system is already present at some metro airports, “but we want to expand this to all major airports," the second official said.

Airlines and airports have also decided to align the number of flights operated during peak travel periods in sync with the manpower available at the airport.

“Congestion often arises due to insufficient staff to handle the passengers at the terminal. The operations team comes up with formula-based flight count which can be handled as per the staff available at an airport on a given day. This is important as air traffic has grown phenomenally," the official added.

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Updated: 26 Apr 2023, 12:17 AM IST
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