Please facilitate the passenger.
This is the request that Calcutta airport officials are often getting from senior government officials in Delhi and Calcutta for many international passengers.
The request, sources said, is actually a plea for help so the passengers can jump the long queue for the mandatory health screening for Covid-19.
“The number of facilitation requests has increased manifold since the health screening facility was set up at Calcutta airport following the coronavirus outbreak in many countries,” an airport official said.
The “facilitation” service is usually provided to senior government officials, ministers, judges, MPs, MLAs and a few others. According to sources, the person providing the facilitation meets the passenger, helps collect baggage and ensures the flier clears immigration and customs quickly.
In the domestic sector, “facilitators” help fliers collect luggage and leave the terminal without hassle.
“Facilitators” also help arrange wheelchairs.
“The request for facilitation mostly comes for domestic passengers because ministers, MPs and MLAs mostly travel within the country,” said an airport official.
But since the coronavirus outbreak, the number of requests for international passengers has gone up steeply. Many of the passengers don’t fall in the category that is usually provided the service, the sources said.
In many cases, the airport officials have to reject the request.
International passengers arriving at the airport now have to stand in an additional queue for health screening.
“It is taking 30 to 45 minutes on an average for a passenger to clear health screening,” an airport official said.
Passengers have to fill in two copies of a form declaring whether they are suffering from fever, cold or respiratory distress. They also have to name the places they have visited in the last 28 days and enter other details such as seat number on the flight and the passport number.
After that they have to undergo thermal screening for body temperature. Doctors then ask a few questions before deciding whether the passenger can be allowed to leave or should be sent to hospital or a quarantine facility.
“Some of the passengers are filling in the forms on the flight to save time. But even then many are filling in only one copy,” said an official.
One official said at times there were huge problems when a “facilitated” passenger was jumping a queue.
“Others are protesting if a young and healthy passenger is being allowed to jump the queue for health screening,” the official said.
But one advantage of providing such facilitation, officials said, was that they would know whether the passenger was following instructions of doctors at health counters.
“One such passenger, a former MP, was provided with a facilitator in February when he had arrived from Singapore, which was on the list of affected countries then. The passenger was asked to get himself quarantined at home. But the next day we again had to provide facilitation to that person when he was flying out to another city in India. So, we came to know that he was not following the doctor’s advice,” the official said.