Management of Airports in India Presents Unique Challenges

Airports Authority of India Combines an Integrated Management Approach with a Solid Commitment to Corporate Responsibility in order to Provide World Class Quality

Leadership and concern for society in the spirit of Gandhi

© 2015 R. Men / Javier Zam
BID Group One and Business Initiative Directions announced that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been selected to receive the BID World Quality Commitment Award for 2015 in Paris. The BID Committee noted that AAI has put into place systems that aim to achieve, consolidate and strengthen good corporate governance including socially and environmentally responsible business practices that balance financial profit with social well being.

India is unique in the world in having produced one of the greatest human rights activists of the twentieth century, Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi exemplified a commitment to humanity and a commitment to peaceful resolution of thorny issues. His message was one of finding the common ground to bridge the gulfs that divide us in a spirit of compassion and care for the most marginalized people of society. Today, air travel also connects society in a fashion that was unimaginable in Gandhi’s time, and AAI accomplishes that work in a way that echoes the spirit of Ghani’s message of caring for society.

According to Louis Fischer, “Gandhi’s greatness lay in doing what everyone could do but doesn’t.” Mohandas Gandhi was born in Gujarat state in 1869. His childhood upbringing included a strong inculcation in values such as pacifism, mutual tolerance, non-injury to living beings and vegetarianism. Gandhi was educated in London as a lawyer and moved to Natal, South Africa in 1893, where he spent the next 20+ years. He quickly became involved in the struggle against racial segregation, founding the Natal Indian Congress and participating in nonviolent resistance to the registration law for Indians in South Africa.

Making a Difference at Home

Upon his return to India in 1916, Gandhi continued to practice nonviolent civil disobedience, resisting the British colonial authorities, leading peaceful strikes and protests, and spreading a message of self reliance to India’s poor. In 1921 he became head of the Indian National Congress, and began agitating for complete political independence from Great Britain, using such techniques as a boycott of British goods and institutions as well as civil disobedience. He was jailed for 2 years as a result. By the early 1930’s, however, instead of arresting him the British began to negotiate, and made concessions on economic conditions, caste status, women’s rights, and autonomy.

One of Gandhi’s most famous early protests, and one which graphically demonstrated the unjustness of British rule and the absurdity of some of its laws, was the Salt March of 1930. It was inspired by the Salt Act of 1882, which made it illegal for anyone to collect or produce salt except for authorized British nationals. Starting with a group of about 80, Gandhi characterized his 240 mile walk to the sea as a traditional spiritual march. Using the publicity as an opportunity to gather support, he arrived at the coast with more than 12,000 followers, who began to make salt in defiance of the law.

The British did not have an adequate response. Allowing such a well organized protest to continue gave more and more political space to those who wanted independence. On the other hand, coming down hard on the protestors for the simple act of making salt seemed like an exaggerated response which would cost the good will of loyal Indians. Furthermore, salt was a commodity that everyone, even the most poor, used. Focus on the unfairness of the British monopoly on its production brought into sharp relief how repressive the law was.

During the first years of WWII, Gandhi helped lead the “Quit India” movement to pressure the British to leave. The movement’s leaders, including Gandhi, were arrested and spent most of the war in jail, and Gandhi’s wife died while imprisoned at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. The British finally realized that India was no longer governable, and moved quickly to withdraw once the war was over.

India gained its independence, but the British insisted on dividing the colony into Hindu and Muslim sections. Gandhi opposed this plan, and after the partition advocated for the payment of restitution to Pakistan for territory it lost in the division. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse, who was opposed to what he believed to be Gandhi’s naïve and dangerous rapprochement with Muslims.

During his lifetime, Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times but he never won it. Unlike the other Nobel prizes, the Peace Prize is awarded for activities carried out only during the prior year, and like the other prizes, posthumous nominations are not allowed. In an apparent tribute to Gandhi, however, for 1948 the Peace Prize was not awarded for lack of a “suitable living candidate.”

Continuous Quality and Social Responsibility

Of the 449 airports in India, Airports Authority of India owns 125 airports of them, 16 international, 35 domestic commercial airports, and the rest serving the needs of general aviation in the country. Additionally, AAI provides Air Navigation Services to all airports in India including Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. One of the international airports, Mangaluru, recently received the highest rating in Customer Satisfaction among all airports in India.

Part of the Total Quality Control process of AAI is its insistence on performing the work that it does in house to the degree possible, much like Gandhi insisted that the work of managing India be done by Indians. AAI has created a Planning Department that coordinates an impressive array of services such as airport feasibility studies, design of passenger and cargo terminals, aircraft hangars, aircraft parking stand with fueling systems, runway, taxiway construction and design, approach lighting systems, HVAC, passenger information systems, baggage handling systems, and parking facilities.

To do this, AAI employs 38 Airport Architects who rely on a team of Civil, Electrical & HVAC Engineers, airport operation experts, and air traffic controllers. The team follows strict guidelines regarding land use, traffic projections and environmental protection in carrying out its work, using in-house Computer Aided Design.

Engineers within the department are able to count on the support of an in-house soil and material testing laboratory and the R&D Unit which focus on sustainable utilization of locally available material, adoption of new techniques for pavement design and evaluation and green building techniques. They also are responsible for safety aspects of aircraft operations like maintenance of friction levels of runways and passenger comfort effects of runway surfaces.

Once a project is designed, the in-house project management teams carry out project monitoring, contract management and quality control tasks. India is a vast country with a huge range of climatic, terrain and soil conditions in mountains, islands, heavily populated areas, wetlands, and near strategically sensitive areas such as military installations and conflict zones. The teams sometimes have to work under challenging conditions at project sites with minimal infrastructural and logistical support. Nonetheless, the department has developed a track record of successfully completing major projects under international standards such the airport at Agatti in the Lakshadweep islands. AAI has successfully completed new terminal building projects at Jaipur, Udaipur, Srinagar, Dehradun, Cooch Behar, Gaya, Dibrugarh, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Pune, Calicut, Vizag, Trichy, and Mangalore, and new terminal building projects are under construction at Varanasi, Lucknow, Barapani, Ranchi, Raipur, Madurai, Mysore, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Indore.

The new greenfield airport at Pakyong deserves special mention, as the first airport in the Himalayan State of Sikkim. Not only does the airport sit at an altitude of 10,683 feet, but because of the steep terrain, this airport required the use of Terramesh technology allowing cut and fill to a depth of 50 metres while being capable of handling commercial aircraft. In Arunachal Pradesh, another Himalayan state, AAI is planning a new greenfield airport with ILS approach technology which will be able to handle ATR-72 type of aircraft.

Terminal designs are executed using the latest techniques in sustainable construction and operation. Teams of electrical and mechanical engineers are responsible for ensuring energy efficiency, passenger comfort, and aircraft operations safety. The BID Committee was particularly impressed by the level of coordination among AAI engineers in ensuring that the goals of the Planning Department are carried out in accordance with international standards of sustainability, safety, redundancy, ergonomics and efficiency.

Simultaneous with planning, construction or renovation of airports, the Corporate Planning & Management Services Department compiles data regarding aircraft movements, passenger load, and cargo transit projections. During operations, it also manages user satisfaction surveys and measures passenger and cargo processing time and space requirements for designated terminal capacities to streamline systems for optimum infrastructure utilization. The Department has staff dedicated to keeping abreast of changes in best practices and legal norms in the civil aviation sector in India and around the world. This way, AAI is able to employ the latest trends in airport ground infrastructure utilization and management techniques.

© 2015 R. Men / Javier Zam
The data necessary for accomplishing its work comes from field representatives at major airports for on site data compilation and verification of correct information. These professionals liaise with airline operators, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Industry, other airport operating agencies and international civil aviation bodies to develop techniques for improving operations.

Corporate Responsibility

Airports are by their very nature noisy, impose demands on infrastructure, affect local communities, and impact the environment in many ways. AAI is well aware that some negative and unintended outcomes arising from its core mission of building and operating airports is inevitable. As a result, AAI takes corporate responsibility quite seriously and has therefore developed programs to bring empowerment opportunities for underprivileged communities near their airports in order to create an environment of inclusive growth.

AAI’s stated corporate responsibility vision is "to be a world-class organization providing leadership in air traffic services and airport management and making a major hub in the Asia Pacific Region by 2016." The policy has been formulated as per the Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility for Central Public Sector Enterprises issued by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. As a result of this commitment, AAI dedicates a percentage of its profits to Corporate Social Responsibility projects such as:

Integrated community development, resettlement and rehabilitation plans that go above and beyond requirements imposed by the government and which ensure that the quality of lives of communities are positively impacted at airport sites
Education, including formal and informal education and vocational training, that contribute towards sustained income generation and self sufficiency
Health as an integral component of better quality of life with special focus on women and girls
Disaster Management, including preparedness and increased emergency response capacity
Environmental conservation and rehabilitation

AAI follows closely the guidelines issued by the United Nations in its Millennium Development Goals and in its Global Compact Programme on Environment. Additionally, AAI has issued other specific, verifiable guidelines for CSR;

- Adoption of a Corporate Communication Strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability

- Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability for Central Public Sector Undertakings

- Corporate Social Responsibility Policy of the Airports Authority of India

- Guideline for Selection of NGO’s, Non Profit Organisations and External Specialised Agencies for Corporate Social Responsibility of AAI

- Corporate Social Responsibility - Vision, plan and commitment

These norms have led to specific CSR projects such as the construction of toilets in schools, extending support to the Model Village Initiative, construction of solid waste management plants at 5 locations, construction of hospital infrastructure, support for health, education, sanitation, and potable water programmes in underdeveloped areas, a comprehensive paper recycling program at AAI facilities, construction of drainage infrastructure at Greater Nodia, provision of an ambulance for medical service for Dr. Sukuntala Misra National Rehabilitation University, financing of medical equipment at various hospitals, construction of a youth skill development and training centre, and other projects.

One of the results of AAI’s CSR activities was the award in 2013 of the Asia's Best CSR Practice Award for Developing Sustainable Strategies for the “innovative initiative of integrating use of eco-friendly handcrafted recycled paper and paper products within the entire organization.” This award is one of the Asia's most prestigious in recognizing organisations that have made a significant and positive impact on the lives of people around them with CSR programmes that reflect a commitment to and respect for communities and the environment. This programme was notable for being the first public sector undertaking in India to establish such a recycling unit. The BID Committee took note not only of this award, but of the many other CSR projects undertaken by AAI in recent years.

Because of its commitment to continuous quality improvement, customer service, and betterment of the community, AAI has been selected to receive the BID World Quality Commitment Award for 2015 at the convention in Paris.


BID is a private and independent organization founded in 1984, whose primary activity is business communication orientated towards quality, excellence and innovation in management. A leader in the broadcasting of Quality Culture, BID recognizes those companies and organizations which lead the most important activities in the business world, and is considered the founding organization in the broadcasting of the Culture of Quality, Excellence and Innovation in 179 countries. The trophy symbolizes a pledge to the principles of Quality Culture. The QC100 Total Quality Management Model, together with the Quality Mix program, media coverage of the convention and its impact on the community and business sector, create an unmatched platform for continuous improvement within the organization and awareness of the achievements of the company at an international level. Awards are given only to those who are committed to improving their Quality Culture based on the principles of the QC100 Total Quality Management Model. Candidates are proposed by the leaders of previously awarded companies who they consider worthy of the award. Especially meritorious candidates may also be nominated. The International BID Quality Award Selection Committee then chooses the winning companies who will receive the award in New York, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Madrid and London.

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