Delhi Airport Mess: What’s Causing the Chaos and What Is the Solution?

Want to fly on time? Avoid T3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport if you can.

What We Know
3 min read

Video Producer: Mayank Chawla

Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar


Chaotic scenes continued to unfold at Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Monday, 12 December.

What's the fuss? From long lines for security checks to delays in boarding, passengers were left baffled.

  • Their frustration spilled over onto social media which has been flooded with posts and videos of queues that snake from one end of the airport to the next.

Bottlenecks: The main choking points were at the airport entry gates and the security screening, Air India's former executive director Jitender Bhargava, who travelled from Mumbai to Delhi on Thursday, 8 December, told The Quint.

  • "45-60 minutes is the time taken in that serpentine queue," he said.


How we got here: The reason for the hold-up varies depending on who you ask:

1. Tourist footfall saw a boost this year with hospitalisation rates receding since the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Indian Express.

2. Terminal 1 of the airport is undergoing an expansion which has resulted in more passengers flying through Terminal 3, Moneycontrol reported.

3. Tech glitches is another reason that was pointed out by passengers who said that the barcode scanners at check-in points were acting up.

4. Airport trays exacerbated the crisis, opined Bhargava. Having passengers place their devices, belts, and cabin baggage in separate trays at the security screening ensured that each person was left with three or more trays to handle, he said. On top of this, it is winter in Delhi and everyone is wearing a jacket so it increases the load for the person screening the trays, the aviation industry expert added.

"And all trays are of the same size — large size. Earlier, we had two sizes where we could've kept our phones and iPads in a small one."
Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India

5. The end of year rush may have also contributed to the congestion, as per reports.


What needs to happen now? "They need to be more efficient at the security screening," Bhargava said.

  • He also suggested raising the 15 kg weight limit for checking in baggage because "a person who is carrying three [bags] uses that many more trays, delaying the whole process."

  • When asked about whether such delays adversely affect airlines, Bhargava answered in the affirmative and said, "Their on time performance gets impacted, their utilisation of aircraft can get affected, flight duty time can get affected. If I take off late, I land late, I turn around late."


What they're saying: To cope with the demand, a DIAL spokesperson said, "We have deployed additional manpower to guide passengers, especially at key choke points, and shifted one additional X-Ray machine. Additional manpower requirements will also have to be addressed by all stakeholders, including CISF and Immigration, to further improve the situation."

  • Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia reportedly held a meeting on 7 December to discuss remedies but that didn't put a stop to complaints from passengers.

  • Scindia also visited the affected terminal on Monday along with other ministry officials.

The Quint reached out to the Ministry of Civil Aviation with detailed questions and will update this post if we hear back.


And DigiYatra? The government-developed app that is meant to make the check-in process at airports seamless, contactless, and paperless seems to be lacking. Based on passenger experiences, there are a lot of chinks that need to be ironed out.

  • Bhargava further pointed out, "We've got to have more people to work it out since the baggage screening is the hurdle. DigiYatra doesn't help you with baggage screening."

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