Over the last one month, I observe a whole slew of procedures, policies, and dictats, emerging from New Delhi, that is improving and facilitating the smooth operations at major airports all over India.
Industry chambers had proposed most of these measures almost 5 years ago, to the Government. While the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was the airport operator, these proposals were deemed “too difficult” to implement. Now, when private operators are taking over the major airports, these proposals have suddenly become policy.
I am not complaining. Having made some of the proposals myself, I am happy. As the saying goes “Better late than never”.
I am just intrigued at the timing of implementation, and I hope we all keep these in mind when passing judgement in the future.
Some of the proposals that are coming through :
SLA’s with nodal agencies
Within an airport passenger terminal itself, there are many statutory agencies involved, and I am not covering cargo or air traffic control operations. As passengers we do not appreciate the nightmarish effort required in co-ordinating the procedural bureaucracy. No wonder AAI staffers on the ground were such a demotivated lot.
- The terminal operator AAI or a private company like GMR, GVK, BIAL etc.
- Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for terminal and airside security, under the control of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)
- Local Police for security and traffic management outside the terminal
- Customs, who incidentally, are responsible for providing and operating the international incoming baggage XRay machine
- Airline handling agents who do the registered baggage X-Ray, loading, unloading etc.
In 2005, after a year long study on all aspects of the airport, sitting many a night, up to 3am, a group of qualified members of the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), including myself and recommended that these agencies must provide and meet Service Level Commitments/Agreements. While our proposal took time, I must thank the Honourable Minister Shri Praful Patel for immediately committing Crores of rupees for the expansion of the terminal at HAL, which allowed Bangalore to grow to the third largest airport in India.
Integrated Cargo facilities and cargo village
Another departure to the positive.
We do not appreciate the significance that air cargo plays in our daily lives. Over 40% of India’s total industrial output travels by air. In case of Bangalore, due to the nature of our industry (high tech, precision engineering, aviation, flowers, fruit, garments, bio/medical, etc.) the figure is 50% (over Rs. 500 Billion).
Airbus is predicting a 17%+ annual growth rate in the domestic air cargo business for the next 20 years. India will purchase more freighter aircraft than passenger aircraft between 2008 and 2027.
Till date, no Indian airport allowed a cargo village, which provides offices and facilities for the hundreds of Cargo and Customs agents, inside an airport. Even authorities at BIAL admitted that they had totally overlooked this aspect. Thankfully they are making fire-fighting efforts, and a cargo village should be up in the next 18 months.
Reduced air space separation
The current separation is proposed to be reduced from the current 5 nautical miles (nm) to 3 nm. This is expected increase runway capacity from 30 flights per hour to about 45 flights per hour, but I will not hold my breath.
To achieve the goal will entail an complete change in the thinking and attitude of both, air traffic control and by pilots. Pilots will need to react instantly to ATC instructions without demur, and controllers will need to exercise their authority, something, both, just do not do, at present.
Change for the better is always welcome, and while private airport operators at MIAL, DIAL, RGIA, and BIAL will take full advantage, for AAI to follow suit, it must jettison the yoke of its own bureaucracy i.e. the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Just as DOT was corporatised in to BSNL, the time has come for AAI as well. But that is for another story……