State-run Calcutta airport is making a clean break with its unprofessional past, hiring private companies that maintain some of the country's top airports to handle everything from housekeeping to health care in its new terminal.
Impressions Services, the housekeeping contractor for Delhi's T3, is on board. So is German giant Siemens for maintenance of conveyor belts and technical supervision of baggage-handling operations.
Voltas will ensure the terminal is temperature balanced and Medica has been handed the contract for a mini health care facility to take care of any emergency.
"We have set the bar at four out of five points for the survey by the Airports Council International. If the score is less than four for a particular agency, it will be penalised and the contract might be terminated," airport director B.P. Sharma told Metro.
The ACI is a global non-profit organisation that rates major international airports. The highest score that Calcutta has ever managed is three.
"We want to set a high standard for passenger amenities, which is why professional agencies have been hired for several departments," Sharma said.
That's a lofty ambition for an airport tainted by dirty toilets, overflowing bins, broken trolleys, malfunctioning air-conditioning systems, conveyor belt glitches and misbehaving personnel.
Ask Amritsar-based businessman Rohit Khanna what is the first thing that comes to his mind when someone says "Calcutta airport" and he is quick to list the pet peeves of every flier who has endured its unprofessional attitude.
"Your (old) domestic and international terminals are notorious for their dirty washrooms and the difficulty in getting a trolley that isn't broken!" he said on Wednesday.
Rohit and wife Sheetal make frequent trips to Calcutta to visit relatives. The couple took the integrated terminal's official debut flight ' Air India's Calcutta-Delhi-London service ' and left the sprawling facility suitably wowed.
Moni Patani and husband Nikhil Jain, both stock market traders, were headed for Dubai on the same flight. The duo couldn't believe they were inside Calcutta airport and impressed rather than disgusted, as usual.
"The first impression about the old terminal was dull and dirty. The toilets couldn't be used and there was litter everywhere. Here it is so lively," Moni said.
Metro, which had been highlighting the plight of passengers using the old facilities, gives a peek into what fliers will get once the integrated terminal becomes fully operational in end-March.
Impressions Services comes to the city airport with a spotless reputation in housekeeping. The agency has the contract for Delhi's Terminal 3 and also handles housekeeping at the Forum Mall.
Airport officials said the company, which has an annual turnover of Rs 200 crore, was among 11 private bidders for the contract. It has already deployed 120 personnel to keep the terminal spick and span.
"We will try to maintain a standard of cleanliness that is on a par with Delhi's T3. Passengers in Calcutta will have a completely different experience from what they are used to," promised Lovkesh Bajaj, the company's head of operations in Delhi.
A team from Delhi, including some supervisors at T3, were in Calcutta for a month to train the staff.
Cleaning will be done every day in three shifts, each of eight hours with 40-odd personnel. Eight supervisors will monitor each process.
The team will be equipped with four battery-operated scrubbing and mopping machines, five electrical mopping machines and two ride-on cleaners.
AC and illumination
Voltas International's electrical and mechanical division has hired 80 people to maintain the air-conditioning system for the 1,90,000sq m terminal. Voltas staff equipped with measuring equipment will ensure that the ambient temperature of the terminal is just right at all times, unlike in the old terminals where Airports Authority of India staff would often struggle to keep passengers comfortable.
"We have set up a maintenance base near the AC plant of the terminal. The AC and illumination systems will be monitored round-the-clock," a senior Voltas official said.
Engineers will be stationed at the airport to ensure every glitch is repaired without delay.
The passage of registered baggage at the new terminal will be managed by Siemens, which set up the 16 conveyor belts at the arrival lounge and also those at the 128 check-in counters. The company has hired about 180 employees for its airport operations.
"Siemens staff will handle baggage once check-in is completed at a counter. They will sort and segregate the baggage for individual flights and then hand these over to the airlines," the airport director said.
Baggage will be loaded on aircraft by the airlines themselves.
Complaints about theft and damage to registered baggage were frequent in the old terminals. "Things should improve now that we have professionals to handle baggage. And 720 closed-circuit cameras will keep an eye," an airport official said.
Medica Superspecialty Hospital's mini-health care facility at the airport promises to be as good as any.
"We will have doctors and nurses round-the-clock along with equipment like ECG and X-ray," said Alok Roy, chairman, Medica.
One room in the arrival lounge will have two beds. The X-ray room and other diagnostic facilities will be in the basement. An ambulance will be parked at the airport at all times to take the critically ill to Medica or a nearby hospital. A telemedicine facility will be set up too.
Even basic health care facilities are not available in the old terminals. "We have to send people to a nursing home close by for an X-ray. There is only one doctor," an official said.
No more trolley trauma for passengers, a mechanised system is being put in place to retrieve trolleys from the check-in zone and line them up outside the terminal for those arriving to catch flights.
But all this could come at a cost. Fliers might have to pay a higher user development fee in the new terminal, sources said.