On an average, the Madurai airport handles about 17 flight departures and an equal number of arrivals every day. On Friday, it began night operations with the commencement of a daily flight to Dubai at 11.35 p.m. Though the air traffic has increased manyfold, the number of employees managing the airport remains stagnant.
According to informed sources, 108 staff members are managing the operations and ministerial works in the airport at present. Until recently, these employees were working on two eight-hour shifts as the airport used to be open only between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. The commencement of night operations has necessitated creation of one more shift, but without any increase in the staff strength.
An officer, seeking anonymity, said as per norms, 17 employees should be present in the fire section of the airport on each shift. But, due to manpower shortage, 28 employees had been manning the section on two shifts all along. Now, they were being forced to work in the crucial section on three different shifts, the officer pointed out.
A similar situation prevailed in all other departments including workshop, engineering and civil. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had deputed only seven additional employees on ‘tour duty’ to Madurai for managing the commencement of night flight to Dubai. Of the seven, three were deputed to Air Traffic Control Room and four to the communications department.
No other department was provided with additional manpower, the officer added.
When asked about the problem, Airport Director K. Sangiah Pandian said steps were being taken to increase the staff strength.
K. Jeyaram, Madurai district secretary of the AAI Employees Union, said the employees did not want to thwart the growth of the airport. Therefore, they had decided to work for even two shifts every day, he noted.