CHENNAI: Looks of pleasant surprise were resplendent on the faces of all the passengers who had the fortune of being the first to be ushered through the new airport terminal at the Chennai Airport. “This is really great. It’s almost like a super-deluxe version of what we’re normally accustomed to,” gushed Bindhu, who arrived from Mumbai on Kingfisher Airlines flight IT 187. She was among the 137 lucky passengers who were part of the first operational ‘flight arrival’ trial, conducted by the Airports Authority of India, in the swanky new Domestic Terminal - 2.
Walking through the tubular aerobridge and picking up their luggage on the improved baggage relay system, passengers were delighted to be received by the airport’s top brass who handed out flowers. The high ceilings, bright illumination and glass panels prompted memories of greenfield airports at Hyderabad and Bengaluru — little wonder then, that comparisons weren’t too far away. “I’m a frequent flyer and I fly to Delhi and Bengaluru and love the airports there. But this is simply amazing and looks a lot better than both those airports. It is a matter of pride that this is completely managed and built by the AAI, while all the others have been constructed with private partners,” said Neelesh M, another passenger struck by the terminal’s posh
The trial runs which were scheduled for earlier this year, were delayed because the 110 KV power lines were laid by the TNEB only at the end of March. After this, 45 days of equipment testing were needed, “All the machinery and the technical advancements are 99 per cent complete. We are just working out the practical snags as they turn up,” said GM-Operations, Ram.
Now that a domestic arrival has completed the first trial run, the next challenge will be to handle a departure, said Airport Director EP Hareendranathan, “That is a lot more difficult as there are more processes like baggage scanning, security clearance and ticketing,” he said.
While they are looking at a formal inaugural by mid-June, the international flight operations will also require to be tested. “Once we are fully tested and capable, all the operations can be shifted from the old terminal within a month.
After this the international terminal will be shut for 4-6 months for renovation after which it will have to be reopened,” he added. This will be done to facilitate the increased international traffic that is expected in Chennai.
Though it has not been decided what will be done with the old airport terminal after the new terminal begins operations, the director indicated that it will not be required to handle the growing air traffic for the next few years, “At present we are handling an annual traffic of 9 million passengers while our capacity is only 6 million.
The new terminals have a combined capacity of handling 10 million passengers, so we should be fine for the next few years,” he said.