Friday, January 20, 2006

Long Time To Take Off.

Day before yesterday, I got a call from my cousin sister from Singapore. She called me just four hours before boarding the flight from her office and wanted me to pick her up from the airport. I thought of cooking up a story but I can’t even if I try. The reason being I like her and more so I like her for her surprise visits, for which the decisions are taken on the fly. This time I didn’t ask her the reason, thinking that I would ask her when she lands in Bangalore.Later I came to know that she was coming as she has to attend a wedding function of one of her friends @ Calicut.

I am more of a nocturnal creature and prefer to do all my reading and blogging after long office hours. So even if I had less hours of sleep, I rushed to the airport to pick her up to avoid the chocked traffic which spreads like a Mexican wave near the airport between 8 to 10 AM and more so had to rush to office after that. To my good luck I zoomed to the airport to find that the flight was delayed by an hour. This I knew was not unusual but it was my foolishness to have not inquired and rushed to the airport. Well the avoidable had already happened so I had no option but to wait there and kill my time and so helped myself with a coffee browsing through the latest edition of the “Outlook” magazine.

Suddenly certain things came to my mind and so here goes the blog.

The moment you enter the Bangalore airport you see hordes of domestic airline and a matrix of bill boards. The domestic air transport sector has now four major players - Indian Airlines, (Jet Airways+Sahara (as I read that in Economic Times Today)), Kingfisher and Deccan. The intense competition among them has forced the airlines to offer various kinds of discounted fares and packages. The competition has also forced the public carrier, Indian Airlines to respond to market conditions in a business like manner rather than like a PSU .They have come up with an aggressive pricing strategy and new products with a new modern chic look. As a result the consumer has emerged as a gainer. The entry of Air Deccan as a niche player covering small towns at low fares has opened a new vista in the domestic air transport scene, which is popularly being described as a 'low cost' airline. The civil aviation sector is likely to see more and more players connecting smaller stations with aircraft of appropriate capacity at affordable prices. One aim of any worthwhile civil aviation policy would be to achieve increased regional connectivity at affordable prices and make air transport accessible to more and more people. The list goes on if you see that each month a new airline is making entry into the Indian skies. Here ends the hunky-dory picture of Indian Aviation industry.

To be sure, it has to do a lot of catching up not only with the world, but also internally vis-à-vis some other sectors such as IT and telecom, which appear to have reaped visible benefits in the wake of general reforms and liberalization initiated in the early 90s.

The moment you get down in any airport as I frequent (Mumbai and Bangalore airport),you can feel that we still need a lot of time to improve on this brand. To make national airports of the world-class standard, serious issues such as the entire passenger handling aspects, comprising customs and immigration and ancillary services such as taxis and terminals are to be addressed seriously. These services are handled by multiple agencies such as the Airport Authority of India (AAI), CISF, customs, Ministry of Home Affairs and the State police. Complaints about inefficiency, corruption, harassment by touts or crimes faced by the passengers tarnish the image of the country as a whole. Therefore, measures should be taken to provide world class coordination with other Ministries and agencies of the Government besides, modernising and restructuring the provision of various connected services at the airport.

I have been to a few airports in the Europe and even a small one like the one in the Nordic city of Helsinki is so well structured and modern in terms of facilities. Check into any Indian airport and at times you don’t find luggage trolleys and worst part is when some physically handicapped/medicated/old aged person needs to be moved between terminals, the scene is that of chaos. Bangalore itself boasts of being the development center to a completely indigenous electric car “Reva”. I don’t see much of these cars in Bangalore roads except for a few ones used my mothers to transfer and pick up their tiny tots from schools. Why can’t we re-model those same cars (just need to remove the roof with some modifications) and use those in the airports for easy movement of the transit passengers. Its pollution free and is handy to use and best part is it meets the growing needs of consumerist Indians, why the heck export those to West to be used as Pizza delivery cars.

Another important aspect of an airport specially in India is "hygiene". The toilets at the airports in India are in a pathetic condition and are really messy. I detest using a toilet at an Indian airport, but things are pretty Ok after you get into the boarding/check in bay (kabhi kabhi kya karrain control hi nahi hoota). Airports in the West lay a very high emphasis and standards when it comes to toilets and even I found condom vending machines (of course you need to pay to get one.)

The infrastructure in Indian airports needs a major investment and the faster the work is carried out the better it is. It really needs a major transition and not a minor cosmetic surgery. It is not just about money, though, it is also about efficiency and speed. We take so long to build anything that costs double and treble and nobody complains because the average Indian does not know that he has the right to decent infrastructure. Narayan Murthy a great visionary in my view wanted to do something substantial in Bangalore in expediting the development process of an International Airport in India but had to quit because of some un pleasant remarks by the so called statesmen of the nation.
The link below is a pointer to the appalling condition of Bangalore airport
http://weblogs.java.net/blog/robogeek
/archive/2005/11/more_on_bangalo.html

Well when all this was running through my mind, my sister had already arrived and checked out her luggage, I got a call on my mobile. “I am in bhaiya, where are you” for a moment I was not able to trace her in the crowd as she had of late put up the “Preeti Zinta” ishtyle cylindrical specs. Well the quarrel started right there on the airport but anyways I had to rush to office after dropping her home.

Hey last few days have been a bit busy, so was not able to blog much. Loads of things at office and also I am working out on something, will disclose that later. Last weekend spoke to Sujatha (http://blogpourri.blogspot.com/) and this weekend I am going to do some good work running to schools and getting info for a new project that is to kick off soon. Thanks Sujatha for making me a part of your team.

Keep reading and remain connected.

2 Comments:

At 7:43 AM, Blogger NewKJ said...

You are very much right in listing out the concerns@airports-aviation policies. The concern is ever bigger, do we see a ray of hopes with the current administration even in coming future. The lack of courage and enthusiasm from them is so visible (or more appropriately non-willingness attitude), that this can frustrate even the coolest. This put the responsibility on us as a citizen as well, we the one who vote them to power (though most of us who talk never vote). It's time we need to feel more responsible and accountable for the changes, we write and talk about. And these words should not remain a favorite CTT (coffee table topic) forever.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger Ferocious Killer Kat said...

I agree with you on the point about so many airlines etc springing up and competition going up, but the airport and basic infrastructure still lacking. Over time I have observed that we embrace concepts from west so fast, implement them so fast, but there is not much thinking put into it. Like say for e.g. springing up of 100s of malls in mumbai. Now if huge malls open up, then the traffic condition worsens in nearbly areas, leading to commotion. I mean does anyone think of alleviating the traffic problem first?? just build malls all over the town. Also here in US there are really good hospitals etc available for every single county. And goto mumbai, and the number of good hopsitals are in single digits.

 

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