High prices and poor quality keep passengers away from eateries

Atrociously priced but poor in quality — food sold at the Chennai airport is far from satisfactory, say air passengers.

Sheila Narayan (49), who frequently flies from Chennai to New Delhi, said she refrains from buying food at the airport. “Once my husband bought a veg. sandwich for Rs. 100 from one of the outlets inside the terminal and it was spoilt. We had a protracted argument with an employee but he refused to refund the money.”

Airport sources say that the outlets charge exorbitant rates because the rental imposed by the Airport Authority of India (AAI) is very high. At present, they pay Rs. 1050 per sq. m as the rent, plus 25 per cent for facility charges like water, electricity etc.

“Since they pay high rentals, they slap this amount on the customers by hiking the food prices. Also, AAI has no control over the pricing of foodstuff in the airport. While some of the outlets have a kitchen in the airport which lacks hygiene, the others prepare it in some makeshift kitchen in neighbouring areas. There is no mechanism to monitor the quality of food sold here,” said an airport official. Whenever the AAI increases the water or electricity charges, the stalls immediately increase the food prices, he added.

He mentioned a study, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), recommended by The National Academy of Science (USA) in 1985 and said the AAI should ideally follow it to ensure food safety. HACCP, one of the inexpensive methods for testing the end product, furnishes details on ‘reasonable precautions’ and ‘due diligence’ to be taken in matters of food safety, he said.

The outlets present at the airport include Sangeetha, Sapthagiri, Taj, Sri Krishna Sweets and Golden Chariot. Officials of the outlets say that all efforts are taken to ensure quality of food.

“We get all our supplies from Café Coffee Day and we have tried maintaining the quality of food. Whenever there are complaints we ensure that we resolve the issues at the earliest,” said general manager of Sapthagiri Restaurant.

Representatives of Café Coffee Day, too, say they try to keep a check on quality. “Since our suppliers trained to serve the food are not there, food may have got spoilt sometimes if it is not stored well. But we always try to give best quality of food,” said regional manager of Café Coffee Day.

D. Sudhakar Reddy, founder and president of Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) said, “Though it is over-priced, at least the food stalls in the other metros serve better food. The AAI must ideally give access to food safety and drug administration department and allow them to inspect the stalls regularly.”

Airport director, H.S. Suresh said the passengers must immediately contact the manager and file a complaint. “Unless this is done, we may not know that the quality of food is bad. Based on the complaints, we give the outlets regular feedback.”

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