It was the one thing that delayed the commissioning of the new airport terminals. But even after the airlines and AAI came to terms with tugging luggage out of the basement of the new terminals through the ‘extra steep’ ramp, a couple of accidents last week has raised concerns again.
On Wednesday, the driver of the electric tug stopped midway up the ramp and was tending to some other minor work when the luggage trolleys slipped and moved downhill to smash into the metal railing. Similarly, on Thursday, an electric luggage tug was about to move from the tarmac into the underground luggage handling area when the connector pin linking the trolleys to the tug came loose - the trolleys moved towards the tarmac at a fair pace and hit a loader who was working there. He sustained minor injuries.
It may be recalled that the steep incline of the ramp raised the hackles of the Airline Organising Committee six months ago and they asked the AAI to rectify the problem. They contended that none of their diesel powered luggage tractors could make it up the incline. In response, AAI said that the ramp had been built in accordance with international standards and only battery operated tugs were to be used. As the stand-off continued till last month, a compromise was reached wherein all the airlines were asked to utilise the electric tugs of Bhadra International - the ground handling agency that handles operations for quite a few airlines. This service was extended at a discounted rate of 67.5 per cent of the usual - the remainder that was waived being AAI’s royalty cut.
However, barely two weeks after all the airlines had gradually moved into the new terminal, these two accidents raised concerns among the airlines again.
Most of the airlines had been dragging their feet in procuring the battery-operated tugs, despite AAI having given them three months. After that period is up, Bhadra’s services will cost much more, making it frightfully expensive for the airlines to move baggage to the flights. Airport Director H S Suresh said that the incidents were “minor accidents” and said that steps were being taken to ensure that they didn’t occur again.