I have to write about my latest experience of first-time arrival at Delhi’s new Terminal T3, after it opened for domestic flights around mid November 2010.
It is an amazingly huge construction, with many aero bridges, saving time for passengers in the disembarkation and embarkation procedures. It reminds me of Denver Airport in Colorado, U.S., which also is very huge but lacks a character of its own. That is what exactly Delhi’s T3 is – very huge, but no character.
But before I come to that aspect, let me first describe my experience. I arrived from Mumbai, and was at first, really taken aback by the hugeness of the T3 Terminal. It is unbelievably huge, especially in a country which does not believe in building the requisite infrastructure for a billion people in anything, be it cities, transport, roads, buildings, or anything for that matter. Where we should have 6 lanes on each side of the highway, India is still trying and struggling to build 4 lanes on each side of the highway. So, it is a pleasant surprise when you see an airport terminal potentially capable of handling some 40M passengers annually, and is purportedly the sixth (or the eighth ?) largest airport in the world. Oh, I thought that makes me proud.
Well, there is a challenge to every such thing, especially in India. While the infrastructure has been laid out, no body seems to have thought about the difficulties of passengers who have to navigate the length and breadth of the terminal. First of all, the wash rooms are at the middle section of each travellator length, so one has got to either spot the same early (before getting into the travellator) or make a time-consuming U-turn to reach the toilet in case one is in a hurry. Secondly, the travellators are a tad bit faster than usual, making it difficult for slow, older passengers to safely position themselves. Thirdly, it took me more than 20 minutes to reach the exit point, my guess it is not less than 2.5 KMS of fast-walking on the travellator and the carpeted area (which is tougher to drag the baggage). There were no trolleys when you arrive at the gate, so you got to fend for yourself by pulling or pushing your bags.
I just saw one golf-cart vehicle for ferrying passengers in all this 2.5 KMS of walking, so what would the older people do ?
And, unfortunately the wash room I visited was not clean (remember we are talking about a brand new airport terminal). When I reached the exit, I was received by the car driver who told me we have to again walk quite a bit to reach the car in the new, cavernous car park. He was smiling, so I knew he understood the lengths to which passengers are forced to walk. The car park was indeed huge, resembling overseas airport car parks. We located the car, and when we drove out, I was told it is a long drive of some 7 to 8 KMS from the old airport terminal, so I better be prepared to come some 30 minutes earlier when I depart.
Well, one can hardly do anything about a completed terminal, except to ask for better services. When I departed from the same terminal couple of days later, I found the departure area to be better organized, resembling the larger U.S. airports. The Security area followed almost immediately from the check-in counters, and the shopping area was right after Security. But it was kind of jammed in with too many shops in a rather limited area, and the lounge was lousy to say the least.
I was not surprised to find out that one has to walk a rather long distance to reach the departure gate. Long travellators again ! But very few shops in that long section of the airport.
Where was the planning done ? Did they not see Singapore Airport ?
Well, this is at least better than anything we got !
4th December 2010