File photo of a general view of the arrival hall at Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi, July 2010. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

As many as 55 additional immigration counters will be opened at Delhi’s IGI airport, taking the total number of such booths to 130 by January next year, and 1,800 more personnel will be deployed to deal with the growing passenger traffic, the Home Ministry said, Nov. 2. In a move expected to reduce the waiting time for security checks at the Delhi Airport, a new technology has been deployed to ensure that trays used for baggage X-Ray scan return on their own.

Twenty of these counters will be opened by November-end at the country’s busiest airport, which has the capacity to handle 60.4 million passengers per annum. Out of these, 16 million are international passengers.

At a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, it was also decided to take immediate action for technological upgradation, additional space and professional manpower for improving services at the Delhi airport.

A team of home ministry officials, which visited the immigration counters at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport to inquire into why so many complaints were coming from passengers, had suggested immediate increase in manpower and immigration counters and resource management to cut the long queues.

The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) will provide space for at least 10 more immigration counters at departure area by November 15, while additional space will be provided for another 10 immigration counters to be functional by January 2018, a home ministry official said.

At least 10 E-visa counters would be made functional for electronic visa facility for foreigners by November 30.

Another 25 more immigration counters would be made functional by January 2018.

“This will facilitate foreigners availing electronic visa which is becoming increasingly popular,” the official said.

The Bureau of Immigration will provide additional manpower of 1,800 personnel for improving immigration services by filling vacant posts, including from central armed police forces and ex-servicemen.

Presently, the Delhi airport has around 75 immigration counters—both at arrival and departure halls, including those for E-visa.

The government has also restored separate immigration counters for business and first-class passengers, a week after these were thrown open for economy passengers as well.

“There was a concern about not having separate (immigration) counters for business class but I have been told that has just been put in place,” Minister of Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said at an event today.

There has been a 30 per cent increase in international passengers at the Delhi airport in the last two years, with serpentine queues at the immigration desks, another official said.

The grant of E-visa to citizens of over 160 countries in the recent past, which led to the arrival of a large number of tourists, was one of the key reasons, the official said.

The deployment of additional personnel will augment manpower strength at immigration counters to enable the staff to provide professional and courteous service to the travelers.

The government has a policy to encourage foreigners to come to India for tourism, medical tourism, business, studies etc. and several initiatives have been taken to improve visa and immigration services to provide the guests a pleasant experience, the official said.

The decisions will substantially improve immigration services at Delhi airport which will facilitate not only foreigners coming to India, but also Indians visiting abroad, he said.

An assessment has found that each passenger spends about 90 seconds at an immigration counter and the immigration authorities are planning to reduce it to 30 seconds, but that will take some time, the official said.

New Tech at Delhi’s IGI Airport to Reduce Waiting Time for Security Checks

The Delhi airport operator tested the Automated Tray Return System (ATRS) for three months and has now introduced it at Terminal 3 (T-3) for domestic flights departing from the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

The new system has several other features, like automated tray spacing, tracking of trays with RFID (Radio-frequency identification) and automated clear and reject lanes.

According to an airport official, the ATRS is capable of handling double the number of passengers—up from 180 per hour to 350 per hour. This will also translate into better throughput, or passenger flow, at the airport.

The facility will be extended to departure and international transfers at T-3 and will also be provided at Terminal 1.

A total of 45 ATRS lanes will be put in place to ensure complete coverage by 2021, according to an airport official.

The move is also likely to help CISF personnel, who collect these trays and stack them up besides performing other tasks such as frisking passengers, keep an eye on potential trouble-makers and scan baggage.

“This system will significantly reduce waiting times for the commuters at the point of baggage screening and also lessen chaos and confusion at the security check area,” said I. Prabhakara Rao, CEO-DIAL (Delhi International Airport Limited).

This is a proven technology and has been adopted by several world class airports globally, he added.