Air transport has doubled in size during the last fifteen years and continues to expand potentially at a faster rate. The demand for air commute has intensified the need for more facilities and safety for the passengers. Therefore, the need to measure the quality level of the airport infrastructure facilities and airside safety has surfaced. Several initiatives have been taken by the Ministry of Civil Aviation towards the betterment of air commuters such as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) and RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme), which aim to facilitate affordable regional air connectivity, apart from the launch of an upgraded version of AirSewa 2.0 web portal (a digital platform for air passengers) and the release of a policy, Digi Yatra (a biometric-based digital processing of passengers at airports) among others.
Airports Authority of India (AAI), the mainstay of Civil Aviation in the Country, initiated a better passenger-centric system prioritising cleanliness status, safety, solid waste management and singleuse plastic ban. AAI in 2017-18, engaged Quality Council of India (QCI) for conducting a third-party assessment of 20 airports (Phase –I) on pre-determined terminal building facilities and services. In 2018-19, QCI was commissioned to conduct the assessment for 34 AAI airports (Phase –II) across the country; the scope was broadened by the evaluation of terminal building cleanliness standards and airside safety. The assessment involved the examination of airport terminal building on the parameters of maintenance and management of luggage trolleys, traffic and queues, management of records and cleanliness amongst others, based on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as outlined by AAI.
Based upon the findings of the Phase - I assessment, it was found that there was still scope of improvement for passenger centric services and infrastructure facilities. Thereby, the need to initiate the Phase – II of the assessment was commenced, to bridge the gap between the hindrances and to broaden the spectrum of improvements with the help of detailed insights. The airports were ranked individually on their performance on the pre-defined parameters as well as the airside safety assessment. The common objective was to rank the airports while evaluating and awarding them on the cleanliness and safety criteria, to help strengthen their passengercentric approach. The assessment was executed by the alliance of QCI and AAI officials. The performance of each airport has been benchmarked across the areas of evaluation and the awards provide the requisite motivation for individual airports to reach the apex standards. Another focus of the assessment also revolved around monitoring the compliance of Ban on Single-Use Plastic at 34 Airports. The results were found encouraging and based on the outcomes of the assessment, all the 34 AAI Airport Terminals are declared as Single-Use Plastic Free. As a part of this assessment, an additional category was included for gathering the qualitative aspects based on new, innovative and eco-friendly practices adopted by the individual airports. It captured best practices such as incinerators, bio-gas plant, compost plant, special facilities for PWDs, bottle crushing machine, baby bassinet, child care room, airport radio station, art galleries, indoor air-purifying plantation among others.
To create a clean and safe eco-system amongst AAI airports, it was decided to felicitate the best performing airports with the ‘Clean & Safe Airport Awards’ in three categories based on the passenger footfall on recurring basis. The awards were given away to AAI Airports and teams by Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Chairman, AAI. The highest scoring airports in the 3 categories of passenger footfall i.e. Less than 5 million, 1.5 - 5 million and More than 5 million, were Vadodara, Chandigarh and Kolkata respectively. The government realized that the necessity for Third-Party Assessments for airports is vital as it provides an unbiased and legitimate outlook on the recorded observations. Apart from the existing parameters of airport terminal infrastructure services and facilities, it is also recommended to inculcate environment-friendly ideas in airports as it serves as a platform to a large passenger traffic for spreading awareness about the eco-friendly ideas and innovative techniques.