Flyers on time but denied boarding at Calcutta airport

45-minute window often closes while standing in separate queues for baggage scan and check-in

By Sanjay Mandal in Calcutta
  • Published 24.11.18, 2:27 AM
  • Updated 24.11.18, 2:27 AM
  • 2 mins read
A queue in front of an airline counter in the domestic section of the integrated terminal stretches till the entrance Telegraph picture

Domestic flyers arriving at the airport more than an hour before take-off but stuck in long queues inside the terminal are allegedly often denied boarding if the 45-minute check-in window closes by the time they reach an airline counter.

A woman who was to take a flight to Mumbai last Tuesday alleged that she was denied boarding by the airline despite reaching the airport more than an hour ahead of her flight’s scheduled departure.

“On entering the terminal, I had approached an employee of the airline to tell him that my flight was at 7.55am. He enquired if it was the Delhi flight. I told him that my flight was to Mumbai, at which he said there was still time and that I should get my bag screened and queue up for check-in,” she recounted to Metro on Fariday.

While she was in the queue, there were back-to-back announcements that passengers booked on the Delhi flight scheduled for 7.40am should check in immediately. “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 7.55am, only to be reminded that the Delhi flight was earlier. So I waited,” the woman said.

As the minutes ticked by, there was an announcement for all Mumbai-bound passengers in the queue to shift to the last counter that till then had people checking in for the Delhi flight. “I did as instructed but when my turn came, I was told that I was late for the flight. The option given to me was to take a later flight by paying the differential fare,” the woman said.

She protested that the delay was caused by some passengers being asked to move ahead of her, but the airline staff wouldn’t relent. Finally, around 8am, they agreed to put her and another passenger on evening flights without extra charges.

“A third passenger was treated as a no-show. The staff bluntly told her she was late for check-in,” the woman said.

While the 45-minute check-in window fixed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation applies to all domestic flights, many flyers are allegedly penalised for no fault of theirs. In some cases, the check-in lag is the outcome of inadequate number of counters being open. At other times, the airport’s infamous queues are to blame.

Sources in several airlines cited shortage of staff to handle the increased number and frequency of flights. Domestic passenger traffic from Calcutta has also shot up over the past few years but infrastructure apparently hasn’t kept up with it.

During the morning rush, check-in counters of several airlines operate with fewer personnel than required.

The integrated terminal has eight check-in islands, five for domestic and three for international flights. Each island has 16 counters. “When flights are departing one after the other in the morning or evening, there is congestion across the check-in islands. Some airlines have asked for more counters,” an airport official said.

Domestic airlines aren’t allowed to use the check-in counters in the international section, although the airport is an integrated one. The international terminal has inline baggage screening but the far busier domestic section continues to make do with standalone X-ray machines for baggage screening.

“Domestic flyers have to queue up twice before check-in and that delays everything,” said Captain Sarvesh Gupta, the chairman of the airline operators’ committee.

Airport director Atul Dixit said there was no shortage of counters to speed up check-in.