The city airport’s social media pages have been flooded with complaints from passengers, especially international flyers without a local mobile number, about the difficulty in accessing the free Wi-Fi at the terminal.
As in all airports in the country, the password for the free Wi-Fi is sent as a one-time password to a local mobile number that needs to be put in during the online registration at the airport. For international passengers who do not have a local number, the OTP needs to be collected from a help desk on production of passport and tickets. However, in Kolkata, passengers rue there is neither proper signage nor an official to guide them to help desks.
“Whenever I try to access the Wi-Fi, it asks for a local number. There is no way I can surf the internet or book an app cab once I land in Kolkata. To make things worse, there isn’t a single local telephone booth. I had to ask a stranger to lend me his phone as I had to call my relative waiting outside the airport. I have never faced such trouble in any other airport,” said Pallavi Guha, a USA resident who arrived in the city to visit her parents.
Most airports across the world allow free Wi-Fi access to passengers even without a local number. The passwords are sent over email. In India, however, airport officials said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India requires public wireless network users to be verified through OTPs. “That is the reason the facility is limited to local numbers and those using international roaming. The restriction is in place as there is no mandatory KYC check for international connections,” an airport official said.
But this rule has inconvenienced international passengers who are often forced to wait hours without internet access in case of flight delays and layovers. While passengers who have international roaming packs may not require free Wi-Fi at the airport, the service in itself is expensive. Though Wi-Fi is available at all waiting areas, one has to select the network and enter a mobile number. An OTP is generated, which needs to be entered into the web page to access the internet for 45 minutes.
Texas resident Kajari Banerjee, who was visiting the city last month, had tagged chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s official Twitter handle and the Kolkata airport in her post. “Kolkata airport is beautiful, still can’t be compared with other international airports as it doesn’t have a phone booth or free Wi-Fi (which requires local phone number, hence is unusable for people from different countries),” she wrote.
When contacted, airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee said it was a wrong perception that international SIM card holders cannot use the free Wi-Fi. “There are help desks at the international arrival and departure areas where passengers can seek assistance to use the service. After scanning documents, like the passport and the ticket, a password and login ID is provided with which they can use the service,” he said, adding, “We are overhauling the signage across the airport.”―Times of India