The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport has been declared the cleanest among the large state-owned airports, pipping Chennai and Jaipur that are ranked second and third respectively. Coming after years of passenger grouse on the state of washrooms, the award is a recognition of strides taken in the past year to overhaul the toilets and improve upkeep. However, the improvement in the indoor ambience is offset by terrible experience outside as passengers encounter shabby touts and chaotic traffic on exiting the terminal.
In the Swachhata Awards 2019, announced by the ministry of civil aviation for clean and safe airports, Kolkata has been declared the best AAI airport with annual passenger traffic in excess of 5 million. Of the 13 big Indian airports, eight are operated by AAI — Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Goa, Guwahati, Lucknow and Jaipur. Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin are private airports.
While Kolkata airport has won laurels for terminal design and efficiency, the state of its washrooms — particularly their cleanliness — has been a sore point among travellers. Though maintenance was handed over to private contractors, it failed to impress passengers. Recognizing the need for a complete make-over, AAI decided to redo the facilities, complete with new sanitary ware, fixtures and signage. In addition, airport managers were tasked with diligently monitoring the cleanliness of washrooms and attendants were stationed in each of them round-the-clock.
The difference began to be noticed in the second half of last year with criticism over the toilets on social media beginning to wane.
“Over the past several months, we have been alert about the toilets. Regular feedback from passengers, either on social media or through smiley machines installed near washrooms, were monitored and acted upon,” said an airport official.
While the change in washrooms is obvious, other initiatives that helped Kolkata airport score points include reducing single-use plastic, installing a plastic bottle crushing machine, getting enrolled and achieving level 2 in the Carbon Accreditation Programme, sensitizing employees and passengers, and setting up green walls inside the terminal.
“Outside the terminal, modern grass cutting-cum-collecting machines have been deployed to keep the grounds clean. Rubber deposits on the runway are also regularly removed to ensure that the landing strip has the desired friction level,” an airport official pointed out.
However, the issues outside the terminal continue to fester. The menace of touts — controlled intermittently through police drives — remains a problem as does illegal parking of VIP vehicles in front of the terminal.
Passengers say that if Kolkata airport is to indeed project itself as a world-class facility, it needs to clear the problems outside as well.
Source: Times of India