Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi on Thursday asked managers of state-run airports to tighten up their belts for competing with private-led ones and fulfil their customers' expectations.
"Compete with the privately managed airports. . . so that someone landing at Chennai or Kolkata airports (being modernised by Airports Authority of India) can say they are as good as or better than Terminal-3 of the Delhi airport", Ravi told a conference of airport directors in New Delhi.
Doing some tough talking, he said, "Simply sitting in the airport director's office will not do. You have to see what problems the passengers and all your other customers like airlines are facing and find solutions".
"Don't make passengers wait for their baggage for hours. If there are less number of conveyor belts, tell your superiors.
"There are other problems also. Be sensitive to them and find solutions", he said while referring to reports about Thiruvananthapuram airport which claimed that the new terminal does not have enough toilets and parking fees were high.
Addressing the conference organised by the Airports Authority of India, Civil Aviation secretary Nasim Zaidi also asked the airport managers to reorient their functioning to meet the new competitive challenges.
Maintaining that Rs 1.35 lakh crore (Rs 1.35 trillion) would be required over the next decade for a massive upgrade and development of aviation infrastructure across the country, he said both government and private investment would be needed.
"In future, there could be more than one airport in some cities. Therefore, the AAI and airport managers have to reorient their functioning
Noting that the country was projected to have 400 million air travellers and over 1,000 aircraft in the next 10 years, Zaidi said the AAI had earmarked Rs 12,000 crore (Rs 120 billion) for the 11th Plan period to modernise airports.
Stressing the need for hiking income from non-aeronautical revenues, the top civil aviation official said while pricing of services at major airports was determined by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority, in the near future each airport would have their own pricing mechanism and the government would lay down the standards they should maintain.
"This would depend on the nature of air traffic flow in each airport", he said, adding all airports would have to maintain their ratings in service standards or face 'serious penalty clauses'.
Zaidi said broad policy parameters to this effect and a 'new regime' of safety and security would be evolved soon.
He also asserted that the government would keep a close watch on the health of AAI, which would have to raise enough resources to meet the growing demand for large-scale modernisation of airports, communication, navigation and air traffic management systems.
AAI chairman V P Aggarwal said airport managers in India would have to compete with the best in the world as the best airports were situated in the Asia-Pacific region.
While huge investments would be made over the next few years to improve and expand aviation infrastructure, he said the airport directors would have to learn to market their airports to customers as is done the world over.
Aggarwal also asked the AAI to devise innovative methods to maintain the plush new terminals which have come up in various states in the recent past.