Waiting in Bagdogra wings: more facilities
The Bagdogra airport will get more check-in counters and luggage conveyer belts as part of a plan drawn up by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to boost infrastructure at the facility and keep pace with soaring passenger numbers.
The flier count has increased to around 2.5 million annually and over 30 flights operate from the airport near Siliguri every day. “We plan to introduce four more check-in counters along with conveyers to expedite the check-in process. The new counters will be opened shortly,” said a source in the AAI.
At present, there are 16 check-in counters on the ground floor of the two-storied terminal where long queues of passengers in the departure lounge are a common sight.
This happens because the existing building is meant to handle around 400 passengers per hour but draws over 1,000. The rush is particularly intense during the afternoons when most of the flights arrive or depart from Bagdogra.
“Right from the entrance of the airport to the terminal building, it takes a lot of time these days. This is because with the increase in the number of flights, vehicular traffic has also increased at the airport. Even after reaching the entrance of the departure lounge, one has to stand in a queue to get to the check-in counters. We hope the queues would become shorter when the new counters are opened,” said Prithvi Dasgupta, a frequent flier.
An AAI official, told about the overcrowding at the airport, said they were trying to make best of the available space. “Unless we get land from the state and a new terminal is built, all we can do is to use every possible space in the existing building. Setting up new check-in counters is a part of the plan,” he said.
Also on the way are more conveyer belts in the arrival lounge. As of now, there are two such belts from where inbound passengers collect their luggage. “If more conveyer belts are put in place, it will help more passengers get their luggage much faster,” the AAI official added.
Outside the terminal, the AAI plans to launch an automated vehicle parking management system. At present, staff engaged by a contractor manage the facility.
“Under the proposed plan, there will be ticket dispensing kiosks at the entrance with automated gates. Cars can enter more freely and at the exit, people will man computerised booths. We often hear about altercations among drivers and the parking staff now. Once this system is put in place, we hope there will be no such problems,” said a source.
The parking space is spread over 6,300 sq metres and can accommodate over 300 vehicles.
“Once the project for a new terminal building and additional infrastructure is initiated, the parking area will be augmented. But right now, we want to speed up the traffic movement as with the rise in number of flights, the number of vehicles that come to the airport has been increasing,” the AAI source said.