Chennai’s new airport terminal gets going, finally

T. E. Raja Simhan | | Updated on: Mar 12, 2018

BL22_04_AIRPORT | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

At 1.12 p.m. Kathirvel, a carpenter, was the first passenger to exit Gate 1 at the new Chennai airport terminal, which was opened for arrivals today.

Clad in a white dhoti and a blue shirt, 55-year-old Kathirvel arrived at the terminal in a GoAir flight (G8 302) from Port Blair.

“The terminal looks really beautiful. I would love to talk more but I am in a hurry. My mother has died and I need to buy a flight ticket to go to Madurai,” said a tired-looking Kathirvel, who had to run to the old terminal, about 500 metres away, where flights depart from for now.

For the 93 passengers in the GoAir flight, the new terminal gave a feel of Chennai’s latest pride. The passengers also included a couple of tourists from Greece, traders and residents who were delighted to land at a spanking new terminal.

The GoAir flight parked in its allotted bay, and the passengers walked in to the terminal building through a new aero bridge. Battery operated tugs of Bhadra International, the private contactor in charge of the ground handling service, were used to transport the baggage from the flight to the terminal.

Satish Deshmukh, Vice-President (Operation), Bhadra International, said the baggage was delivered in double quick time. By the time passengers reached the belt, the baggage was on it.

Clean terminal

“It’s very clean; and we were offered mango juice on arrival,” said Anastasios Sagris, a Greek national, who could not stop grinning ear to ear. Along with a friend, Sagris was looking through a Lonely Planet travel guide to go to the Koyambedu bus stand, the city’s main terminal, to catch a bus to Goa.

“You have to go to the old terminal and take a city bus to Koyambedu,” a journalist told them helpfully. The media was not allowed inside the terminal and mediapersons hung around outside the terminal talking to passengers.

Soft launch

GoAir was the only domestic flight to arrive at the terminal for the soft launch. The terminal will handle one flight a day for the next four days starting SpiceJet on Friday followed by IndiGo, Jet Airways and Air India in the subsequent days.

No match to Delhi

While highly impressed with the new terminal, 85-year-old Hussain, a resident of Port Blair, felt the Delhi airport was far better. Hailing from Ambur, a famous leather cluster in Tamil Nadu, Hussain said compared to the old ‘stinking’ terminal, the new one was clean. “However, we need to get to the size and standards of Delhi.”

Friends and relatives of the arriving passengers were griping as they were not informed of the arrival in the new terminal.

“We were waiting at the old terminal without realising that our people had already arrived at the new terminal,” said John Jacob, who was waiting for his girlfriend.

Arriving passengers had to walk quite a distance to take a cab home. Auto-rickshaws were even farther away, outside the airport complex.

Autorickshaw drivers Pandiyan and Saravanan said, never mind the new airport, they were still waiting for over an hour to find a passenger. “Everybody is booking call taxis,” they grumbled.

The Airports Authority of India, which claimed to have constructed the new terminal at a cost of Rs 2,015 crore, will put to test the new terminal with arrival of domestic passengers only. The departure will continue in the old terminal.

After streamlining all processes related to arrivals, departures will start soon, said an official of the Airports Authority of India, who did not want to be named, standing outside the terminal.

> raja.simhan@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 21, 2013
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