Flyers stuck in long queues at Patna airport

Airport congestion leads to serpentine queues, alarm over getting to boarding gates on time

By Dev Raj in Patna
  • Published 14.12.18, 12:31 AM
  • Updated 14.12.18, 12:31 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
LONG WAIT: File picture of a crowd inside Patna airport The Telegraph picture

Flyers arriving at Patna airport more than an hour before take-off are getting the jitters as they are often stuck in long and serpentine queues to reach the security check zone.

The queue for security check and frisking begins almost from the airport entry gates and inches its way forward, taking a passenger almost 15-20 minutes to reach the security hold. From there, it takes at least another 10 minutes to clear security. The queue for women is, however, shorter.

What it means is that passengers are worried whether they will reach the boarding gates on time. From getting their bags screened to checking in and then clearing security, the entire process can take at least 40-45 minutes, if not more, during peak hours.

An executive who was to take a flight to Calcutta on Wednesday said often airline staff get those behind in the queue to go forward at the expense of those who have come on time.

“I stood in queue for security check for my flight which was scheduled for 6.40pm. It was a long queue that began almost near the airport entry gate. But to my surprise, I found that staff of an airline whose flight was taking off earlier was getting passengers of that flight to jump queue and move forward. Several people who were behind me in the queue were asked by airline staff to move ahead. I pointed out that my flight was at 6.40pm, only to be reminded that the other flight was earlier. So I waited,” the executive said.

This, he said, happened again. “I understand that those passengers who arrived late for whatever reason had to be allowed right of passage to ensure they didn’t miss their flight. But for this, passengers who are on time and come in advance to avoid last-minute rush are being penalised. It’s not fair. The airport management should take immediate steps to solve this problem as it’s making flying out of Patna a harrowing experience,” the frequent flyer said.

“I feel this is ridiculous. I take pains to reach the airport well in time so that I can board my flight smoothly, without any delay or tension. But people coming late are chauffeured ahead. This happens most of the time. However, I keep silent because I don’t want people to miss their flights,” said Rachna Pathak, a corporate professional and another frequent flier.

Patna airport is among the most constrained and congested, accommodating around seven times more passengers than its 5 lakh capacity per annum permits.

The situation aggravates during winter when visibility drops owing to fog and aircraft get only limited hours to operate. To top it, there are only three X-ray scanners and four frisking booths to handle around 8,000 to 9,000 passengers every day.

Timings for flight operations have already been changed to cope with the “fog schedule” from December 1 with 13 out of 49 daily flights cancelled. Flights now operate between 9.20am and 8.15pm instead of 4 am to late night till last month. Airport officials said the timings could be further curtailed as winter advances.

Patna airport director Rajender Singh Lahauria told The Telegraph that various steps have been taken after travellers faced difficulties last winter.

“We created a security hold area on the first floor and a corresponding boarding gate with it to accommodate passengers of an entire flight. Two porta cabins have been erected on the airside of the terminal building to remove congestion on the ground floor. We are extending the security area on the eastern side of the terminal. It will have a seating capacity for 400 people, two additional boarding gates, and will start operating in around 10 days,” Lahauria said.

He said there were plans to expand the check-in area too. Tenders were floated and bids were invited twice, but nobody participated in it.

Lahauria though ruled out installing more X-ray scanners because of lack of space.

“We are going to add two more frisking booths in the next two days. It will expedite the security check process and benefit flyers. Moreover, two more parking bays for aircraft will become operational very soon and help alleviate congestion,” the airport director said.

Airport officials said a permanent solution to the perennial problem will be to have a new terminal building at a cost of Rs 1,217 crore, which has already been okayed and work on it by Hyderabad-based NCC Limited (formerly known as Nagarjuna Construction Company Limited) has started.

At present, engineers and workers from NCC Limited are digging the airport colony area to sort out and remove cables and pipelines related to public amenities.