Friday, October 29, 2021

Kolkata: Lone ground-handling agency at airport leads to flight delay fears

Kolkata: The Airlines Operators’ Committee at Kolkata airport has expressed fears of flight delays next month when flight count returns to pre-Covid strength with just one ground handling agency (GHA) required to cater service to over 80 flights a day.

A second GHA that was present earlier has exited after its term expired. A new GHA has been appointed but will be able to start operations only in December 2021 or January 2022 when various approvals are in place.

Ground handlers are the wheels that run airline industry and provide a host of services that are crucial for aircraft operations, including guiding aircraft into and out of parking position, towing with pushback tractors, lavatory drainage, water cartage, airstart units, luggage handling, ground power, passenger stairs, wheelchair lifts and hydraulic mules.

“Ground handling staff board passengers, load and unload bags, clean planes and get them ready. All these operations have to be done within an hour for international flights, and within 25 to 40 minutes for domestic flights. The only agency currently available at Kolkata airport has been handling a maximum of 40-50 flights a day. Handling twice the number is a big challenge and is already affecting services,” an airline official said.

Apart from more manpower, AI Airport Services Ltd (AIASL) requires more equipment to handle so many flights. AIASL CEO Rambabu Chintalacheruvu said the organization was ready to handle the flights with the manpower and equipment. “Since scheduled international flight operations have not commenced as yet, entire staff are being used for the flights now. We are gearing up for handling the scheduled international flights. We are fully aware of the challenge and take every step to handle our client airlines flights,” he said. While IndiGo and SpiceJet have their own ground handling teams, all other airlines operating from Kolkata airport are serviced by AIASL after the exit of Bhadra International. Prior to Bhadra’s exit, AIASL was handling two domestic airlines — Air India and Go First.

29/10/21 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India

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