COMFORT, convenience, cleanliness and customer service: the four ‘Cs’ are the hallmarks of any good terminus. However, the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport (LGBIA) lacks all these four qualities, opine some travellers. The airport’s inability to handle passengers for more than a decade has also come in for criticism.
Homen Medhi, Executive Officer, Archaeological Survey of India, who is a regular commuter from the LGBIA to New Delhi and other parts of the country, while talking to this correspondent, said, “However, Guwahati being the gateway to the North East, LGBIA, despite all its shortcomings, is host to all types of foreign dignitaries, important functionaries and businessmen and even tourists on their way to various destinations throughout the NE region.”
In addition, VIPs, government officials and top executives fly in and out of the airport to various destinations around the nation. And the LGBIA gives them the first impression of the region, he said, adding that the number of trolleys for passengers is inadequate. “Moreover, during the peak season when there is a passenger rush, the LGBIA doesn’t have the adequate carpet area to accommodate the commuters,” he said.
The washrooms are very filthy. Regular passengers say that lack of maintenance in the airport cause them severe inconveniences at times.
“I was once travelling to Delhi for a business purpose. There is no adequate number of trolleys to carry baggage,” said Prasanta Kumar Mahanta, a businessman.
Security checks too take a long time due to lack of manpower, with even airline employees sometimes having to render their services in the checking procedure. LGBIA has only one entry gate with two CISF personnel at the entrance to check the passengers’ passes. The airport also lacks enough X-ray machines. While other international airports have their own inner-line scanning machines, the LGBIA has only three X-ray machines which are operated by manual scanning. Some commuters have also expressed their view of privatising the LGBIA like the Delhi Airport, so that the maintenance work can be done swiftly.
A senior citizen said, “We are senior citizens and the trolleys give us a tough time at the airport. This doesn’t look like an international airport. If the Airports Authority of India at the LGBIA cannot provide facilities to the passengers, why is the AAI charging the User Development Fee? I am sure there is a part in our ticket fees where we pay for such maintenance too. The announcement system at the airport is pathetic, which is not audible for the commuters, especially for the senior citizens.”
LGBIA has only two ambulances, which is far below the requirement of an international airport. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to increase the number of beds for patients from the only existing bed now.
Complaints like lack of space and overcharging by local taxis on the airport premises are also often heard from commuters.
When asked about the services and facilities for commuters, Airport Director BK Tailong said, “The LGBIA is an old airport and the terminal is handling more than its designed capacity. There are 22 toilets which are being renovated. We have not received any complaint in regards to upkeep of toilets now.”
Talking about the safety scenario at the airport, Tailong said that the entry point to the airport is vulnerable and needs to be free from congestion. The second entry gate has been opened for departing passengers. “Though hyper sensitive airport security threats are always there, we are ready to tackle any tragic incident. Regular safety and security meetings are held to avoid lapses in any quarter,” he added.
When asked about the problems faced by commuters during security checks, he said that now there are six to eight security personnel from CISF and not a single passenger has complained about missing a flight due to delay in security checks in the recent past.
Earlier, there used to be problems in this regard. However, the issue has been successfully resolved. Additional security check has been introduced on the first floor also, he said.
Two more X-ray machines have been added to the three registered baggage X-ray machines at the airport. A carpet area of 250 square metres has been added to the security check points for convenience of the passengers. Work is on to add another 400 square metres of carpet area to the security check points. A new building of about 90,000 square metres with a capacity to handle 10 million passengers per annum is coming up near SOS Road, the LGBIA Director added.
When asked about the shortage of trolleys, he said, “We have not received any complaint in this regard. However, we are going to introduce 400 new trolleys.”
Eight more check-in counters will be commissioned soon, he said. An escalator and a lift are also coming up at the airport. A new childcare room has been set up at the airport where mothers can feed their children, he added.
The LGBIA is the first airport in the entire North East to discard stamping of hand baggage by facilitating faster security checks. A new radar system is being installed at the airport which will be commissioned within three months, Tailong said.
For better comfort of passengers, 32 visitors’ chairs have been placed at the city side canopy. Two more aerobridges are being added for faster passenger movements, he added.