Chennai airport
Chennai airport

Busy & big, can be better in services

From insufficient number of trolleys to levying a hefty parking fee for a ridiculously low turn-around time that leave cab drivers stressful, basic facilities at the city airport are woefully inadequate, lament flyers

CHENNAI: By handling over 400 flight operations on a single day, the Chennai airport is one of the busiest in the country. While it might be good for business and optics, passenger-experience leaves a lot to be desired, it seems!

Let’s start with the basics. Trolleys, which are mandatory, are not arranged well. Passengers, especially those with heavy luggage, find it difficult to ferry a few together.

Adding to their woes is lack of parking facility for passengers. “Any cab service that enters the airport premises has a small window to avoid paying the exorbitant parking fee, which is collected as soon as the vehicle enters the premises. This puts a lot of stress on the passengers and the taxi drivers, both of whom do not want to pay the hefty charge, and rightfully so!” laments a private airline pilot. “Can you imagine the tension when a taxi driver cannot wait for the passenger to alight, and the latter rushing between his luggage?”

Official sources claim there are around 19,000 trolleys at the city airport on any day. “Most international passengers are seen two trolleys with them when the luggage is more. And the trolleys are collected from the parking area and taken back to the collection centre as fast as possible,” explains the source.

This was true before the lockdown, as there were around 70 employees only to collect trolleys from the parking area and GST Road. But the situation is quite the opposite, and here’s why: “However, since the contract expired, the AAI had asked its staff to collect them. This is affecting efficiency in a bad way, thereby forcing passengers to go in search of them in the parking area,” adds the source.

The airport trolleys can be spotted even at the GST Road and the entrance of Tirusulam Railway Station. Every day, the car parking is flooded with trolleys.

“During my return, I had to wait for about 20 minutes in the parking area due to heavy traffic because of the trolleys. Foreigners, at times, can be seen running helter-skelter looking for trolleys,” points out John, who runs an NGO in Chennai. “This could be one of the reasons for the lack of trolleys at the airport premises, and why passengers are stressed searching for them.”

The problems do not end there. Confusion over trolleys spill over to traffic. When passengers search for them in the parking area, it creates a traffic logjam at the airport, especially at midnight since there’s nobody to clear the trolleys. Midnight is peak hour at Chennai International Airport since most flights from foreign countries arrive around that time.

Similarly, the Multi Level Car Parking (MLCP) project was announced by the AAI a few years ago. The project, estimated to be around Rs 250 crore, was completed in July this year, but it’s yet to be inaugurated.

MLCP is constructed on 6 floors and can easily accommodate 1,400 cars at one time. It also has facilities to charge electric vehicles and was supposed to be inaugurated in August. However, the inauguration was postponed and till now, there is no official confirmation about the inauguration.

Delay in getting the NOC from the Fire and Pollution Control Board is one of the reasons, claim airport sources. “It’s taking a long time to complete. And there’s a case filed in court by the private firm that has taken the contract of the existing parking at the airport. The AAI had decided to manage the MLCP by themselves but since the contract is not over yet, the firm had filed a law suit,” avers the source.

When DT Next spoke an AAI official to get a response to these complaints, he said: “MLCP will be opened soon but we cannot give an exact deadline for it, as there are some legal issues. Trolleys are being maintained by AAI staff but rest assured, we will address all the trolley complaints soon.”

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