Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Adios to Long Queues in Kolkata Airport

A Panoramic View of Kolkata Airport
Kolkata, 9th December, 2014:  Long queues at airport check-in desks will soon walk off into the sunset. Self-check-in kiosks, which were recently installed at the domestic departure lounge, have become a big hit with one among every four fliers using them to avoid serpentine queues. With the Airports Authority of India (AAI) planning to increase the kiosk count, airlines expect to cut down the waiting time at check-in counters by half.

Six kiosks that have been installed just beyond the entrance to the domestic departure lounge are for fliers with only cabin bags. "Nearly 25% of passengers are already using the facility. Frequent fliers are able to issue their own boarding pass in less than a minute. That's a saving of nearly 20-25 minutes during rush hours," an airport staff of a private carrier said.

Life for trader Rajesh Dwivedi, who takes the first flight out to Delhi and the last flight back the same day nearly once a week, has become easier after the kiosks were introduced last month. A resident of Tollygunge, he often had to take a cab at 3.30 AM to catch the 6.10 AM flight. Now he leaves his home an hour later, assured that it won't be an anxious touch-and-go at the end of a never-ending queue at the check-in desk.

A Passenger moving swiftly across the Kolkata Airport
"I was twice denied boarding as the system shut down 45 minutes prior to scheduled departure. The kiosks have come as a boon. At least, I get to sleep an hour more. I have been using the facility at other major airports and am glad that it's finally come to Kolkata," said Dwivedi.

According to airlines present in Kolkata, up to 60% of fliers to other metros travel with hand baggage only. For travellers to other cities, around 30% don't have checked in bags. "Most of those who travel light are on a business trip or have short stays, very often returning the same day or the next at most," an IndiGo ground staff explained.

With many passengers now preferring the kiosk route to check-in, AAI has ordered four more kiosks to ensure that passengers don't end up in queues before self-check-in machines. "By March 2015, the domestic wing will have 10 kiosks, two at each of the five entrances. Once 40% passengers begin using the kiosks, we will evaluate the need to further increase the count," airport director BP Sharma said.

Negotiating the system is fairly simple. The passenger has to first touch the logo of the airline he is travelling in. Thereafter, he is required to fill in either the PNR number or the flight number. If it is the former, the boarding card is generated and can be printed out. In case of the latter, the passenger manifest appears for selection and printing thereafter.

For business and premier-class passengers, there's double joy with CISF introducing a dedicated security portal for them. Located between portal A and B, this facility will help nearly 300 passengers who pay more for exclusivity. At the international terminal where airline staff verifies passport details before issuing boarding pass, such self-check-in facilities are unlikely. But international passengers will be glad to see the registered baggage X-ray queues disappear as inline baggage X-ray system will be commissioned in March 2015.

"We have received permission from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) to install the two inline baggage X-ray systems. Smith, the company that supplied the two X-ray units, is carrying out the modification following which they will be installed," Sharma said. Delhi, Mumbai and other airports with inline baggage machines have also had to modify their system to adhere to the latest BCAS norms.

In the domestic terminal though, the inline baggage system remains on hold as BCAS is yet to clear the proposal. While the BCAS is insisting on CTX/EDS machines, it is yet to approve the systems from the two suppliers — one American and the other European. Officials are hopeful that the matter will be resolved early next year so that the tender can be floated, machines ordered and installed by the year end. But with the inline X-ray jinx plaguing Kolkata airport for more than two years now, the airport director was unwilling to commit or comment on any fresh deadline.