Calcutta airport will recruit a facility management consultant to oversee — and be accountable for — passenger amenities that have so far been handled by private firms under the supervision of government officials.
For the flier who finds it difficult to locate a trolley or gets a curt response to a complaint about a dirty washroom, what this means is that a professional agency will be at hand to solve any problem pertaining to passenger services in the integrated terminal.
The decision to introduce private supervision of amenities at the integrated terminal comes after months of struggle to maintain a modicum of professionalism in delivery of basic services such as trolley handling and toilet cleaning.
V.P. Agrawal, chairman of the Airports Authority of India, approved the proposal during a visit to the city last Wednesday.
“We will soon float a tender to select an agency. The move is aimed at better management of the terminal and improved facilitation of passenger amenities. We need more people to coordinate and monitor the services,” airport director B.P. Sharma told Metro.
Some services such as personal assistance for the elderly or a child travelling alone might carry a fee, sources said.
Civil aviation ministry officials in Delhi said the plan to appoint a facility management consultant was part of a pilot project to prepare the ground for leasing out six AAI-run airports to private players. “It’s more profitable to have private operators run the airports as they can bring in more non-aviation revenue. Since the Bengal government is against privatisation, we will look at Calcutta airport last,” an official said.
The estimated monthly cost of having a facility management consultant is Rs 30-40 lakh. This is in addition to the money that will be spent on hiring a second agency to keep the terminal’s washrooms clean 24x7 and another to keep the façade spick and span.
The state-run airport’s slow march towards professional delivery of passenger services had started in March when it hired private firms to handle everything from housekeeping to health care in the new terminal. But the responsibility of supervision has so far remained with AAI, whose efficiency in managing the old domestic and international terminals had often been questioned.
Many fliers complain not so much about the lack of frills compared to Delhi or Hyderabad as about the “attitude” of officials supposed to supervise basic services.
Help is seldom forthcoming when someone seeks to lodge a complaint about missing trolleys, unclean toilets, long queues or lack of filtered water. “I asked an official where I could find a trolley and he curtly told me that arranging for trolleys was not his job,” said businessman Rajesh Gidwani.
Trolley retrieval has been outsourced to a private agency but lack of coordination among the staff and proper supervision often leads to trolleys lying scattered outside the terminal.
Baggage handling by airlines has also been a problem with conveyor belts often malfunctioning. Passengers often have had to wait for up to 30 minutes after landing to get their baggage. Sometimes, there is confusion over which conveyor belt has been assigned to a particular flight.
The facility management consultant would be required to ensure basic tasks such as mopping of floors is done at regular intervals and each washroom is manned round-the-clock.
The agency would also need to monitor whether all 27 elevators, including four outside the terminal, are working. Ditto for the flight information display boards.
Airport director Sharma said the facility management consultant would inform the AAI if any of the service providers didn’t cooperate.
The AAI is in the process of signing a service-level agreement each with the private agencies. The idea is to fix parameters for various services that the consulting agency would be required to enforce. A service-level agreement will specify at what interval toilets should be cleaned or the time within which baggage must arrive after a flight’s landing.