Check-in counters at Indian airports to close 40 minutes before departure

Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 19:53 by Aviation Correspondent

Reach airport at least 40 minutes before departure of the flight if you are in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad & Chennai.

A circular from the Director General of Civil Aviation, is being enforced by airlines in big cities. In a move that will be welcomed by conscientious passengers and be the bane of tardy travelers, airlines have announced that they will close their check in counters forty minutes before the flight’s departure.

The move began in Mumbai where Air Traffic Control started to enforce the directive of the circular which was circulated in 2009. Delays in passengers checking in was, over time, causing flights to delay, which in turn would cause delay of consecutive flights. Now, other metros and smaller airports are also following Mumbai’s example. According to the circular, the Air Traffic Controller is empowered to move flights that miss their departure time to the back of the take-off line – which means that a flight could be delayed for up to an hour if it misses its original time.

This could be sweet revenge for the ATC, which is usually at the receiving end of complaints from airlines about congestions causing delays. According to reports, after the circular has come into effect, the on-time performance of flights from Mumbai airport has been exceptional.

Kingfisher Airlines officially announced that all domestic flights departing from Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad & Chennai would close forty minutes before departure time. They say that this change is being implemented to facilitate smooth operations and heighten guest convenience. They also maintained that they would properly intimate passengers of all such changes and flight timing changes through mobile messages and through its trade partners.

On Monday, which was the first day of enforcement, in the span of three hours (5.30 a.m to 8.30 a.m.) 21 flights which delayed take off time were given revised flight timings at Mumbai airport. By evening the same day 90 flights were in revised time slots, after failing to maintain proper take off times. Airlines pulled their act together and started enforcing correct time check-ins and boarding, but passengers, who were not aware of the official changes, complain that the airlines should have intimated them, as many of them missed their flights as a result.

The real hassle for airline ground staff is expected to be during late night international flights, which have stringent check-in drills that have to be adhered to. International operations with a single passenger checking in late, and no leeway from the ATC is a combination that spells nightmare for any ground staff. Apart from these eventualities, the directive is sure to bring about a welcome change of timeliness in Indian aviation.

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