Chennai may just be the first of the selected airports
A key infrastructure development (KID) cell has been created by the government to push forward and speed up a public-private partnership mode to professionally manage “certain identified” airports. Chennai may just be the first of the selected airports, officials of the Airports Authority of India and the civil aviation ministry, said.
For air passengers, this could mean better facilities at the airport, said a ministry official. “I’m not at all happy with the way Chennai airport is maintained. Also, personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force and AAI officials are sometimes at loggerheads. Because of this, I was even denied entry to the airport once, and briefly locked up at a point inside the airport,” he said.
The cell, comprising five AAI members will function as the nodal point to bring in the PPP mode, and will also perform groundwork for the ministry. Another official said a similar cell was formed when Mumbai and Delhi airports were privatised.
“The five members, who will report to the joint secretary in charge of the airport division in the ministry, will assist the ministry in various aspects to execute the project, including in the appointment of technical, legal and financial consultants. The cell will function until the project is completed, after which it will be disbanded,” he said.
Passengers say better maintenance of the premises would be welcome, as problems continue to dog the new domestic terminal.
An AAI official admitted that water seepage inside the new domestic terminal had turned into a persistent issue for passengers, especially after this week’s rains.
“One of the lifts was not working for an hour and there was water seepage near the X-ray machine and a passengers’ mobile phone became wet. The problem is, when the lift near the VIP lounge does not work, passengers are literally locked inside the lounge and have to watch their flights departing from the balcony. This is because the staircase near the VIP lounge is locked for security reasons. These are just a few of many problems, and there is a pressing need to privatise this airport now,” he said.
Last month, the minister for civil aviation, Ajit Singh, said global bids would be floated soon for the professional management of Chennai and Kolkata airports under the PPP mode.
Some AAI officials however said they were unhappy with this move. “What is the need to privatise a profit-making airport? We are now in constant fear of losing our jobs. Every new terminal has teething problems. They will be sorted out soon,” said another official.