Flying high

Print edition : March 12, 2010

THE Airports Authority of India (AAI) was formed on April 1, 1995, by merging the International Airports Authority of India and the National Airports Authority in order to accelerate the integrated development, expansion and modernisation of airports. The modernisation of airports has been a priority so as to facilitate business linkages. In this regard, the AAI has focussed on airports in State capitals and small towns. The starting of international services from important cities because of the increasing tourist footfall and emigration has been another area of focus for the AAI. As a result, airports at Jaipur (Rajasthan), Kozhikode (Kerala) and Tiruchi (Tamil Nadu) have benefitted in terms of acquiring world-class facilities.

International flights first took off from Jaipur at Sanganer airport, 10 kilometres from the city, in February 2006. The airport also provides an alternative to Delhi, especially during winter when fog results in white-outs in airports in northern India.

Jaipurs is the first airport in India to get an Integrated Management System Certification, which includes ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certificates. Spread over 716 acres (one acre is 0.4 hectare), it has two runways that cross each other. It also houses two passenger terminals for international and domestic traffic. The airport handled more than 12 lakh passengers and around 20,000 aircraft movements in 2008-09.

The second terminal, work on which began in 2005, was completed in early 2009. Constructed at a cost of more than Rs.100 crore, the building covers an area of about 23,000 square metres. It is made of glass and steel and meets international norms. It is centrally air-conditioned, has escalators, a public address (P.A.) system, and a flight information display system (FIDS).

An inline X-ray baggage inspection system that is integrated with the departure conveyor system, inclined baggage claim carousels, closed-circuit television (CCTV) for surveillance, check-in-counters with common use terminal equipment (CUTE), and glass aerobridges with visual docking system have also been provided.

Group Captain Devinder C. Mehta, Adviser, Media Relations, AAI, said: The terminal building has been designed in a modular concept catering to futuristic needs. As on date the terminal has a capacity to handle 300 arriving and 300 departing passengers at peak hours. It is likely to cater to an annual traffic of 14 lakh passengers by 2015, going by the present traffic growth trends.

A total of 10 airlines (four international and six domestic) operate from Jaipur, and the airport is connected to four international and 10 domestic destinations. Rajasthans culture and heritage has been incorporated in the design of the new terminal. The entrance is made of sandstone and Dholpur stones and the walls have Rajasthani paintings on them. Two waterbodies on either side of the terminal, phoenix palm trees and landscaped gardens around the building ensure that the premises remain cool even when day temperatures are high. The glass panels that cover the sides of the building can control the amount of sunlight filtering into the building. This helps cut down on electricity bills.

The new terminal has 16 check-in counters and nine security check booths on the departure floor, and two baggage claim conveyors, of 60 metres, at the arrival hall. It also has two aerobridges. The airport has been equipped to provide a level of protection corresponding with aerodrome category VII (category VIII on need basis) and it meets firefighting and rescue requirements for the same.

Along with the new terminal, the Sanganer airport has got a new Airport Director in Anuj Aggarwal, an engineering graduate from BITS, Pilani, with 21 years of experience in the aviation sector.

Tiruchi, in Tamil Nadu, is situated on the banks of the Cauvery. A great travel destination with several temples and monuments, the city is famous for its Rock Fort, which is about 83 m in height. The rock itself is said to be about 3,800 million years old, that is, older than the Himalayas. About 7 km from Tiruchi, in Srirangam, is the historic Sriranganatha Swami temple with 21 gopurams and a gigantic raja gopuram.

Tiruchi is considered the geographical centre of Tamil Nadu and a big business centre that is well connected by road to various cities and neighbouring States. Major organisations in the city are Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and the Golden Rock Railway Workshop, besides several cement factories. The National Research Centre for Banana is based here, as are leading educational institutes, including the National Institute of Technology.

The airport is just 5 km away from the city, and it is the only one in the State apart from Chennai to operate international flights for the past 35 years. At present, it operates 686 domestic flights and 1,659 international flights every year. The ISO 9001:2008 certified airport has been built on 702 acres, and there are plans to acquire another 439 acres from the State government.

During the recent global economic downturn, Tiruchi airport was the AAIs saving grace, with its double-digit growth in traffic in 2008-09 in both passenger and cargo segments. This year, passenger movement at Tiruchi airport is projected to increase by 45 per cent and cargo movement by 64 per cent over the previous year. The airport is gearing up to handle this increase.

Said Group Captain Mehta: The airport is on its way to becoming operational for 24 hours. A dialogue is on with many airlines to use the airport for their operations. Regular surveys are being carried out to assess passenger satisfaction. To ensure transparency, passengers and the general public are being encouraged to utilise the public grievance redress mechanism.

The terminal has a peak-hour capacity of 400 passengers (both arrival and departure) at a time. The airport parking lot can accommodate 300 cars and five buses. The terminal building, a steel-and-glass structure, is equipped with modern amenities, including central air-conditioning, escalators, elevators and imported conveyor belts and a passengers boarding bridge (PBB). There are reserved lounges for VIPs/CIPs (commercially important persons), and smokers, besides a public concourse, a restaurant, duty-free shops and retiring rooms. It has 13 check-in counters with CUTE facilities, eight immigration counters each in the departure and arrival halls, and eight customs counters, both red and green channels.

The airport has advanced security equipment, including X-ray baggage inspection (X-BIS), explosive trace detection system (ETDS) and CCTV. In the words of Airport Controller Dharmaraj, Tiruchi airport is one of Indias most happening airports and undoubtedly a product of innovative/modern ideology.

Kozhikode airport became a reality after a long struggle, which began in 1977 under the leadership of the late K.P. Kesava Menon. Hectic campaigning by spirited industrialists, politicians and the public resulted in the commissioning of the Kozhikode airport on April 13, 1988. From four flights a week then to 400 flights a week now, it has been an eventful journey.

The first direct international flight took off on February 15, 1992. It got the status of an international airport in 2006, which opened it to foreign airline operators. Because of this upgradation, a new terminal was built in early 2009 on 377 acres. The airport now handles around 1,000 people at peak hours and about 20 lakh annually. The car park can accommodate at least 800 cars at a time. It has a runway that is 2,860 m long and 45 m wide.

The airport offers both free and paid services. The free facilities include passenger boarding bridge (aerobridge), passenger trolleys, P.A. system, escalators, lifts, entertainment television, CCTV, FIDS, child care room, meditation/prayer hall, bank and ATMs, post office, telephones (local calls), and toilets. The paid services are travellers requisite stall, snack bar, restaurant, money exchange, Internet cafe, duty-free shops, baggage wrapping machine, prepaid taxi, car parking, public comfort station, and a book vending machine.

Kozhikode, like Tiruchi, maintained growth in both traffic (28.2 per cent) and aircraft movement (38.8 per cent) during the period of global recession. In keeping with the growth and demand, eight foreign and two domestic airline operators commenced operations here in 2008-09. Projects such as apron expansion, a new visitors gallery, the construction of a left luggage room, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) barracks, additional staff quarters, and water and sewage treatment plants have been planned at a cost of Rs.15 crore.

Investment in the airport has always been a win-win proposition for the AAI because Kozhikode attracts a large number of people, mainly for three reasons: high emigration to the Gulf, Ayurveda, and its rich historical heritage. The constant emigration in Kerala to the Gulf has seen many international airlines starting flights to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha, Dammam (Saudi Arabia), Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Riyadh, and Sharjah. Among them are Air India, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, Jet Airways and Oman Air.

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