Pre-flight nightmares usually start at airports, where passengers face long queues, delays and baggage woes. These issues are acute at major airports like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. But flyers can soon expect a smooth experience on the ground at least, thanks to Airports Economic Regulatory Authority's (AERA) move to ensure strict service quality checks at airports. A decade after coming into being, AERA has initiated the process to appoint external agencies to determine service quality at major airports, particularly private ones. So far, the service standards have been measured by Airports Council International (ACI), which conducts airport service quality (ASQ) surveys to rate facilities across the world. \u201cWe have been dependent on ACI-ASQ for service standards at major airports. We want to independently conduct service quality checks. The statutory mandate to ascertain tariff at major airports is settled now. So we can start with service monitoring function soon,\u201d says S Machendranathan, AERA chairman. The service quality performance would be linked to tariff determination, with penalties imposed on operators for failing to meet standards. The regulator, which fixes tariff at major airports \u2014 which handle more than 1.5 million passengers annually \u2014feels several airports are choked at peak hours, leading to long queues at various stages from terminal entrance to boarding of flights. For instance, Bengaluru's Kempagowda International airport handled around 25 million passengers per annum (mppa) in 2017 against its present capacity of 20-22 mppa. Similarly, the Mumbai international airport is expected to breach its capacity-mark of 48 mppa this year. \u201cThe number of airports monitored by AERA will come down to around 17 from 25 after the amendment to the AERA Act. We want to focus on bigger airports, especially those developed with public-partnership models,\u201d Machendranathan adds. As per the ministry of civil aviation, many airports like Patna, Jaipur, Guwahati and Nagpur are handling far more passengers than they were designed for. Domestic traffic has been increasing 16-18% year-on-year for the last four years on cheap fares and rising disposable incomes. Both the private operators and state-owned Airports Authority of India have failed to keep pace with the growing passenger traffic, resulting in inconvenience to passengers.