The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) is all for allowing the private sector to handle the ground services of international airlines at Tribhuvan International Airport. Such a proposal on the domestic airport premises had earlier come under fire over the aviation authority’s decision to allow a private agency to ferry passengers from terminal to the plane. By all means, the decision is a bold one. An airport, more so an international one, must offer hassle-free and reliable services to the passengers, based on which the visitors form the first impression of the country and its people. Then comes the security aspect, the laxity of which will have far-reaching consequences. The latter is particularly true in these troubled times, uncompromisable at any cost. The decision is expected to generate extra revenue for the aviation authority, which has its own debts to clear. The endorsement is welcome but it remains to be seen if the bid-winning company will actually live up to the expectation.
An airport’s services, and hence its efficiency, depend on a range of facilities available from the plane’s touchdown to the moment passengers leave the airport. But in that brief stopover, a derelict officer, for example, is as unwelcome a hassle as a bus breaking down on the apron-terminal stretch of the runway. It damages the subtle process involved in creating a traveller’s opinion. And such an opinion is what weighs in the overall assessment of the tourism sector, the example of which was the list posted by iExplore.com nearly a fortnight ago where Nepal slipped 17 notches down the scale. While duty must be performed, it must be accomplished by simply the most efficient way and without inflicting collateral damage in the process of passenger-handling. Guests, after all, are to be treated with utmost hospitality. Whichever new organisation wins the competitive bidding, all these nuances will have to be borne in mind, besides the profit-churning endeavour that it is thought out to be.
But the overriding concern is the security at the airport, the responsibility of providing which must rest at all times with the government. Welcoming private player in any sector is mainly to encourage credibility, transparency, reliable services and cost-efficiency. But the foundation for all these aspects is the maintenance of equilibrium between airport tax, effective services and passenger-friendly environment. It is for CAAN and RNAC to sort out how the existing service the latter has been offering to all international airlines barring Indian Airlines and Thai Airways will be handled. In no case will a lop-sided agreement with the bid-winner be acceptable to the passengers, much less other stakeholders.