Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that the minisitry is in dialogue with airports to reduce congestion. He highlighted strategic improvements, including an increase in departure gates, passenger check-in gates, Automated Tray Return Systems (ATRS) and X-ray machines to address the issue. The minister shared plans to extend the Digi Yatra app to 38 airports by the end of 2024, targeting 95 per cent of air passengers. Currently active at 13 airports, Digi Yatra utilises facial recognition technology for seamless, paperless entry and security clearance.

Airport congestion has been a matter of concern at major airports in India. The civil aviation minister asked airports to prioritise passenger movement instead of focusing on retail outlets.

Operational upgrades

Addressing congestion concerns, Scindia detailed measures taken in the past year, including additional manpower deployment by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and reinforcement of Bureau of Immigration (BoI) staff. Departure and entry lanes at 16 airports, including metro cities, increased by 46 per cent, reaching 312.

The number of XIBS X-ray machines rose from 234 to 312 across the country. Passenger traffic increased by 10 per cent from November 2022-23, reaching 12.6 million, leading to congestion and extended waiting times during the festive season and winter. Entry points saw a 113 per cent increase, going from 31 to 66 in December last year. The number of X-BIS machines increased from 50 to 66. The deployment of CISF security personnel at Delhi airport increased by 29 per cent, with 6,140 personnel currently deployed. Immigration desks rose to 174 from 153 last year.

Notably, he cited the example of Delhi airport, where the removal of VIP lounges and unnecessary retail spaces resulted in a significant easing of congestion, exemplified by the placement of five X-ray machines in the reclaimed area.

‘Zone O’

To boost seamlessness, the minister said that Digi Yatra, operational at 13 airports catering to 85 per cent of domestic passenger capacity, offers a decentralised mobile-based ID storage platform, gaining popularity for hassle-free entries.

‘Zone O’ at Delhi airport was created, clearing departure halls of commercial space to enhance the passenger experience.

Regarding airport space, Scindia commented on the meticulous planning of space allocations for commercial activities. He emphasised ensuring a smooth flow of passengers while adhering to safety considerations. Proposals for additional space for business establishments are subject to availability, meeting passenger facility requirements for projected future traffic growth.

“Space allocations for commercial activities are planned on the principle of to be ‘on the way’ and ‘not in the way to ensure smooth and natural flow of passengers,” he said 

He further added that emergency evacuation routes and passenger movement corridors should be planned to ensure the minimum travel distance, especially when allocating space for retail, duty-free and food and beverage areas.

Addressing the comparison of airport facilities between India and European countries, he remarked that Indian airports surpass many European counterparts, which often grapple with congestion and baggage issues.