Some counters are left unmanned
Lack of adequate personnel to man the immigration counters at the arrival and departure wings of the Thiruvananthapuram international airport here is causing untold hardship to hundreds of international passengers.
Although 10-12 immigration counters are available in the international terminal, only four or five each at the arrival and departure wings are manned even during the peak hours between 3.30 a.m. and 5.30 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when five international flights depart and seven of them arrive.
This leads to utter confusion and queues extending all the way up to the check-in counters of the airlines.
Airport sources said some of the immigration counters were not manned on the pretext that computers had not been installed in them. As a result, a passenger checking-in for a flight at 5.30 a.m. is able to reach the immigration counter only at 5 a.m. Those who arrive by flights during the peak morning hours have to wait at least an hour to come out of the terminal.
On an average, 800 to 1,000 passengers check-in for the five flights that depart during the peak hours and another 1,000-1,200 passengers arrive by the seven international flights during the period.
Personnel of the Kerala police are deputed to the immigration counters. The immigration wing is headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy. SP) and has three Circle Inspectors (CIs) and 38 Sub-Inspectors (SIs). The immigration wing in the Cochin International Airport, which has a mere 10-15 per cent additional passenger movement, is headed by a Superintendent of Police and has three Dy.SPs, six CIs and 115 SIs.
The personnel manning the counters are not properly trained. The airport also lacks the infrastructure to handle the huge traffic.
The unmanned counters and the long queues owing to the delay in providing service reflect poorly on the State's image and affect tourism. With Kerala marketed as a world class tourist destination, travellers expect efficient and quick service at the airport.
The staff strength was last increased by the Home Ministry in 1997. No steps have been taken to increase the number of personnel in the immigration wing to keep pace with the rise in passenger inflow and air traffic after the open sky policy was introduced. “Even personnel as per the sanctioned staff strength are not provided at Thiruvananthapuram,” an airline official said.
Airlines, including the national carrier, have taken up the issue with the Airports Authority of India and the top brass of the Kerala Police. Shashi Tharoor, MP, has written to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram seeking his intervention in the problem. Mr. Tharoor pointed out that the proposal to increase the manpower in the immigration counter at the international airport here had been forwarded to the Union government and was awaiting approval by the Work Study Team at the Intelligence Bureau.
The airlines hope that the shortage of personnel in the immigration wing will be addressed and the personnel trained by the time the new world class terminal at the airport is commissioned.