Aviation security regulator, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), has asked airlines to strictly enforce the one hand bag per passenger rule to ease congestion at airports.
In a memo, BCAS said: “It has been seen that an average passenger carries 2-3 hand bags to the screening point. This has led to increased clearance time as well as delays, congestion and inconvenience to passengers. It is, therefore, felt that enforcement of the aforesaid circulars must be ensured by all stakeholders,” it added.
“All airlines and airport operators may be instructed to take steps to implement ‘One Hand Bag rule’ meticulously on ground to ease out the congestion and other security concerns. Airlines may be made responsible and depute staff to guide passengers and check and verify their hand bag status before allowing the passenger for pre-embarkation security checks, “ the memo added.
However, airline executives said the regulator’s own rules allows passengers to carry multiple other items along with one hand bag making the rule virtually impossible to implement.
Besides one hand baggage, the rules permit a passenger to carry one laptop bag, one ladies’ hand bag, and one blanket, gift item purchased from duty free shop, umbrella, and a reasonable amount of reading material on board an aircraft.
“How is it possible to enforce this rule when the government’s own rule permits multiple other things? The regulator should be clear in its instruction and not create confusion for frontline staff of airlines,” an executive of a private airline said.
People aware of the development said a few parliamentarians had complained to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia regarding congestion at security checks. Following that, the regulator was asked to implement steps to ease congestion.
“We had a meeting with the representatives of airlines and have told them to impose the rule. It takes more time to clear multiple bags,” the security agency said.
The official said passengers have a tendency of carrying multiple bags. BCAS found that the average number of bags carried in flight is 1.8 per passenger, excluding laptop or purse.
Besides, airlines were also asked to change flight timings so that too many flights don’t arrive or depart around the same time to prevent overcrowding at airports. However, the idea was dropped after airlines opposed this saying changing flight timings in between an ongoing schedule will not leave flexibility and force them to cancel flights, leading to chaos.
“The winter schedule is ongoing, I cannot change my flight timings especially at smaller airports where there is a limitation of watch hours. I can only cancel them. We pointed out that tinkering with schedule integrity in between will have a huge impact on operational freedom of airlines. This should be thought of while a new schedule is being made,” the private airline executive quoted above said.
The best possible solution to ease congestion is to develop the airport infrastructure — build more check-in kiosks, make more security check and boarding gates.
“As flights are increasing in numbers at smaller airports, the infrastructure available there is often found wanting. You want to ease congestion; you have to build more infrastructure,” he said.