Airport: The civil aviation ministry has barred airlines racing to reduce turnaround time from getting some passengers to disembark through the rear door of aircraft once it is attached to an aerobridge.
A circular issued on April 20 also mentions that airlines should be using aerobridges more than they have been doing at airports where these are available.
The directive is the ministry’s response to complaints from passengers that they have been forced to disembark through step ladders attached to the rear even when aircraft are parked in a stand with aerobridge facilities.
On occasion, passengers getting out through the rear door are forced to walk till the terminal.
“It has been observed by senior AAI (Airports Authority of India) officials that airport aircraft parking stands having passenger boarding bridges are not being utilised fully. The non-usage of passenger boarding bridges is causing inconvenience to passengers. Further, it has also come to the notice of that when aircraft is parked in an aircraft parking stand with passenger boarding bridge, airlines are disembarking passengers from passenger boarding bridges as well as from the rear gates of aircraft through step ladders,” states the circular.
“The aforesaid practices being followed at airports are not acceptable in terms of passenger facilitation and from the security point of view.”
The ministry has specified that all available aerobridges should be allocated to airlines before the remote parking bays are used.
“Whenever an aircraft is parked at a stand with passenger boarding bridges, disembarking passengers through the rear gate of aircraft using step ladder shall not be permitted,” the circular says.
Mumbai airport’s new terminal has about 50 aerobridges but Calcutta’s has only 18 for about 460 flights that take off and land every day. No aircraft is allowed to be attached to an aerobridge for more than an hour, an official said.
Barely 35 per cent of the flights to and from the city currently get to use aerobridges. Airlines fear that their turnaround time, which is crucial to profitability, will be affected by the ministry’s stricture that the rear door of aircraft cannot be used for disembarkation. “Since disembarking through the rear door using a step ladder has been stopped, we will need more turnaround time,” said an official of a private airline.
Representatives of various airlines are to meet the airport authorities in a couple of days to find a solution.
At AAI-run airports, domestic airlines need to pay Rs 2,000 an hour and international airlines double that amount for using boarding bridges. This user fee and the time limit on usage have played their part in airlines resorting to disembarkation of passengers in the back rows through the rear door.
Around 25 per cent of the passengers in an aircraft disembark in this manner even when an aerobridge is in use. “This practice saves us a lot of time,” said an official of a low-cost airline.
An Airbus A320 aircraft with 180 passengers would need between 7 and 9 minutes to empty out if both doors are used. “If we are allowed to take passengers only through an aerobridge, 15 to 20 minutes is the average time required for disembarkation. This will definitely affect our on-time performance,” the airline official said.
Turnaround time is the period an aircraft needs to become airborne again after landing. Besides disembarkation, the in-between schedule includes cleaning the aircraft and technical checks.