Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lessons from Hyderabad airport

It does not take much time to recognise that today’s airports are fast becoming hotspots for congestion. The long queues at check-in counters, clogging of boarding gates and associated risks and delays clearly reiterate this. Many of the major airports in India are already operating beyond their capacity and a few more are expected to breach their capacity this year. To refresh our memory, it was only around a decade ago that the new, state-of-the-art airports were built in Bengaluru and Hyderabad with Delhi. A few more are set to join the club. These airports were designed with operational capacities considering the passenger-traffic growth for at least the next two decades.  But the unprecedented growth in the Indian aviation industry at nearly 20 per cent every year is crippling our Airport Infrastructure. Added to this, we have the UDAN Scheme of the Government of India to boost regional connectivity which is in turn contributing further to the increased demand.

While India’s airport infrastructure needs to take a giant leap, it also needs to be understood that any expansion will take a time of three-four years before the facility gets operational for passengers. With the current geometric progression of the year-on-year growth, any meaningful enhancement of capacity should also address the interim passenger growth that will be taking place in these three to four years in a phased manner.

The recently inaugurated Interim International Departure Terminal (IIDT) building at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), Hyderabad has not got a lot of attention. It is not a giant infrastructure project built with thousands of crores spent over the years. The press coverage on it has also been meagre. Needless to say, it is not something that has sought much limelight. However, there are a lot of things which need to be appreciated in this facility. This terminal building has been carved out of a meticulous planning exercise involving and analysing the present traffic growth at RGIA, projected traffic growth, rapid capacity assessments of airside and land-side facilities among others. While analysing these at micro levels, it was observed that passenger traffic is stressed the most at the pre-boarding stage. Thus developed this idea of an exclusive concourse to handle check-in, security, immigration and customs process for international passengers. After completing these formalities, passengers will move into the main passenger terminal building though a connecting corridor from where they will proceed to boarding. The terminal will also have a premium check-in facility from where passengers travelling in business class can avail personalised and assisted check-in process. The terminal also boasts of India’s first ever remote, hand baggage screening facility which can increase passenger throughput and reduce the consumption of time at security check.
20/10/18 Srinath Rangarajan/Pioneer
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