India was fast pacing towards being the top three market in aviation, until COVID-19 hit and put spanner in the plans. What happens on the other side of the pandemic is anybody’s guess but the pandemic period could well be utilised to get our house in order. Indian airports are unique! Private greenfield ones (Kochi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kannur), Private operators who started operating existing airports and expanded (Delhi, Mumbai), state owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) controlled ones like Kolkata and Chennai, Defence enclaves where AAI operates a civil terminal at defense airports like Goa, Pune or Srinagar, Private airports like Vidyanagar or state government owned airports like Shirdi!
In this plethora of options – the last few years have seen a rapid addition to the count of operational airports, thanks to the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik). This has meant that new airports and civil enclaves have come up at the same time, older airports have been operationalised. This period has also coincided with an increase in use of social media across the country.
Sadly, the twitter handles give out unnecessary information or tweet things not even remotely related to aviation many times! In the last month or so I have seen a few airport handles concur with NASA for something and then talk about nuclear disarmament – without realising that we are a nuclear power!
Where does one start?
The last few months have seen many twitter users complain about the arbitrary airport handles of airports in India. It is as if they were created without any thought. Take Pune for example, currently in focus for the vaccines being sent out across the country. The airport handle is “aaipunairport”! While there is no need to prefix AAI in every airport handle, even assuming that it is needed, PUN is IATA code for Punia airport in Congo, while that of Pune airport is “PNQ”. PNQAirport or AAIPNQAirport or something on these lines would have been great! Pune is not an exception, there is a whole list of such instances!
Jamnagar airport for instance has its twitter handle as “AirportAai”, Kolkata and Chennai are the busiest of AAI airports but their handles are “aaikolairport” and “aaichnairport”. The story is the same across the board. Jammu Airport (IATA:IXJ) – Twitter “aaijmuairport”; Keshor (IATA: IXK) – Twitter – “aaiksdairport”; Kishangarh (IATA: KQH) – Twitter – “aaiksgairport”. The story repeats across states!
Twitter, recently, went on a verification drive and a few of them like Chennai or Surat have been verified handles as well. The airports will lose the verification tag if they change the handles, going by the Twitter rules.
Indore airport’s twitter handle is “aaiidrairport”. Hopefully it is by design and not merely a coincidence since Indore is also abbreviated as IDR – same as the airport code. Silchar Airport tweets as “AAIIXSAirport” – using its IATA code. So is the case with Surat Airport which is now a verified handle and tweets as “aaistvairport”. Srinagar Airport tweets as “SrinagarAirport” and so is the case of Solapur Airport (Twitter – “SolapurAirport”),
What are the private players in India doing and the global counterparts?
Even private airports in India have not shown liking for IATA code except for Bengaluru.
Bengaluru airport tweets as “BLRAirport” proudly showing off its IATA code, where as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai’s twitter handle is “CSMIA_Official”.Delhi Airport simply tweets as “DelhiAirport”, while Hyderabad Airport’s twitter handle is “RGIAHyderabad” using the acronym of its official name Rajiv Gandhi International Airport Hyderabad. India’s first private greenfield airport – Kochi also is in line with Delhi airport and tweets as “KochiAirport”, while the latest private greenfield airport Kannur tweets as “AirportCNN”.
The recently privatised airports are no different. They had a golden opportunity to move away from the AAI nomenclature but Ahmedabad airport now tweets as “ahmairport” and is a verified handle. Similar is the case with Mangaluru which tweets as “mlrairport” while the IATA code is “IXE”. This also is a verified handle. The third of the airports, again with the same airport group – Adani’s is Lucknow, which is also a verified handle but tweets with its IATA code “lkoairport”. A case of the same airport grouping thinking differently for different airports.
London Heathrow – world’s busiest airport tweets as “HeathrowAirport” while Singapore’s Changi Airport tweets as “ChangiAirport” without reference to either SIN – the IATA code of the airport or the city state’s name! John F. Kennedy airport at New York uses its IATA code in its twitter handle – “JFKAirport”, likewise Newark International uses “EWRAirport”. Chicago’s O’hare airport uses fly2ohare for its tweets. Washington Dulles airport which serves the american capital uses “Dulles_Airport” as its handle, while Houston Bush Airport simply uses “IAH” as its twitter handle
Need for cohesive strategy
While twitter handles are just one part of the story, the real problem is using social media for outreach and effectively. The official handles of Regional Directorates selectively retweet tweets from certain airports. Is it friendship at work or is it ignorance of somebody at the cost of somebody else?
If this isn’t enough, every airport has a different way of listing out the schedule for the next day. Belgavi airport will give the information as one tweet per airline ensuring that your twitter timeline is filled with only those tweets while Pune airport gives a list of inbound and outbound flights. Few also give loads of the flights at flight level!
Worst are the handles which are often used as personal handles of Airport Directors – used to comment on both aviation and non-aviation matters!
It is time the government comes up with a specific charter for use of social media by AAI airports and there is standardisation. Many passengers are taking to social media to get information and the effective and free tool should be used to the full potential!