'Sarojini Nagar' To 'Fish Market': Flyers Pan Delhi Airport On Twitter But What's Causing The Chaos?

Over the last two weeks, passengers have been posting pictures and videos of long queues and crowding at the IGI in Delhi and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai prompting authorities to take note and asking airlines and airport operators to ease the traffic.

Serpentine queues at Delhi airport seen last week by flyers

Congestion and chaos at Delhi and Mumbai airports has become an issue for the Indian aviation ministry and other authorities amid repeated complaints of delays and mismanagement by passengers. 

Over the last two weeks, passengers have been posting pictures and videos of long queues and crowding at the IGI in Delhi and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai prompting authorities to take note and asking airlines and airport operators to ease the traffic.

On Tuesday, the Civil and Aviation Ministry asked airlines to deploy adequate manpower at all check-in and baggage drop counters well in advance to ensure decongestion and smooth flow of passengers at airports.

Delhi airport chaos

Indira Gandhi Internation Airport (IGIA) is the country's largest airport and is operated by DIAL under a Public Private Partnership. Despite its size, recent months have seen a spurt in passenger complaints about long waiting hours and flight delays. Social media as filled with complaints against poor crowd management with videos depicting long and serpentine queues, flight delays and mismanaged luggage dissemination. While some on Twitter likened the situation in the airport to a "fish market", others were reminded of the crowded "Sarojini Nagar" street market. 

Prompted by the growing complaints, on December 12, Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia paid a surprise visit to IGIA to inspect the condition on the ground. He visited Terminal 3 where the majority of complaints regarding delays in web check-in and baggage drop were reported. The minister was seen interacting with officials at the airport and later convened a meeting with stakeholders in which he issued timebound instructions and sought reports. 

What's causing congestion across airports?

But the problem is not specific to Delhi. Airpotrts across all major cities including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata have been reporting complaints. Scindia's visit to IGIA came days after he convened a meeting with the officials and management boards of major airports in the country.

One of the primary reasons is overcrowding. Since the end of Covid-19 travel restrictions, both domestic and international flyers have increased drastically. With flyers returning to travel with a vengeance post-pandemic, major airports seems to lack the infrastructure to cope with growing crowds. 

On Tuesday, domestic airlines carried nearly 4.12 lakh passengers.

The problem has been mounting since last year. On October 8, 2021, overcrowding due to the weekend rush at the Mumbai airport led to all morning domestic flights being delayed ahead of the festive season. 

As per a capacity study carried out by DIAL in collaboration with UK-based air traffic management firm NATS in March, the four runways of IGIA can fly 14 crore passengers in and out annually before 2030. This is nearly double of 6.9 crore international-cum-domestic flyers seen in 2019. 

The Covid-19 pandemic had put a stop to the expansion plans of several airports across the country as well as other parts of the world, leading to issues of space and congestion. Wage and workplace issues with employees is yet another problem. 

How authorities are combatting the problem

The state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) has asked DIAL to provide details on whether there has been any deficiency in providing services at the airport. The AAI has also sought details about the status of services as per the Operation, Management and Development Agreement (OMDA) from DIAL, which is majority-owned by GMR group. The OMDA was inked back in 2006 and mandates airport managers to comply with various service quality requirements.

DIAL is the operator of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (DIAL), the country's largest airport, and it is being operated under a Public Private Partnersh

As per the OMDA, DIAL has to submit a compliance report on a quarterly basis to the AAI with respect to objective service quality requirements. There was no immediate comment from DIAL.

In case the default continues beyond the stipulated period, then the airport operator is even liable to pay certain amount as "liquidated damages" subject to certain conditions, according to the OMDA.

The last report on the compliance of the objective service quality requirements as per the OMDA was submitted to AAI in October. This report was for the July-September period.

What Jyotiraditya Scindia said

Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Wednesday said all agencies have swung into action in the last 24-36 hours to mitigate congestion at all major airports.

"Congestion at entry points and check-in counters at T3 has eased. Four additional X-ray machines have been added at the Security Hold Area; display boards showing wait time have come up. Deployment of CISF manpower has already kick-started, and will progressively increase in the next few days," he said.

While emphasising that the spurt in flyers is a great time for the country's civil aviation sector, the minister said the boom needs to be accompanied with a capacity increase across the board.

India houses the third largest aviation market, and with that, "we must also strive to be the best service providers", Scindia said. He further added that a lot is being done today and much more will be done to brace for the future.

"A strong Rs 98,000 crore capex for airports is in the pipeline. Civil aviation is expanding its reach beyond the metros. There is a lot of potential, and animal spirits have only begun unleashing.


On Thursday, the civil aviation ministry said that necessary actions taken to reduce congestion at the Delhi airport have resulted in "least wait time" for boarding at checkpoints and entry gates

(With inputs from PTI)