Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the new Chennai International Airport.
It appears that India is finally getting to build some new nice international gateway airports. Coming after the relatively new Bangalore, New Delhi and Hyderabad airports, the Chennai airport joins that new airport club.
Befitting its status as the biggest metro city in Southern India, Chennai has long been a gateway to South East Asia. It is a bustling metropolis with more than 7 million inhabitants (probably more if one includes all the suburbs). It has a long established reputation as an educational and IT hub, and has managed to secure its place as a manufacturing hub as well over the past decade. It is a centre for performing arts and its music affiliations are well established.
In my opinion, the new airport has been well designed. It is not yet complete though. The airport authorities have not yet streamlined the arrival areas well, and the departure area is bereft of shops, entertainment and food – very little food and shopping was available as of earlier this week when I visited.
Infrastructure facilities have often been a bane of Indian planners. The Chennai airport is no different. They could have easily learnt from the Singapore Changi Airport, but apparently they did not. Trolleys were in disarray, the signboards are found wanting (you could turn left at the entrance to the airport and go towards the international airport side and find that you have to take a lift to the departure area and you may not be even able to locate that particular lift !). One should actually turn right onto the elevated road leading to the departure area, which in itself is confusing as the demarcation for domestic and international sections are not clearly depicted.
Inside the terminal, the space available has not been utilized properly. Airlines (only a few operate anyway) do not have permanent check-in counters, which could have easily been provided for. If you are looking for Jet Airways, you won’t find them until a specific time window (3 hours before the departure of their flight). This is unusual and forces passengers to approach someone to ask for clarifications. The Immigration area is not highlighted so one ends up asking the check-in counter which way to proceed after check-in. The self-explanatory services that are so well highlighted even in Delhi Airport have not been positioned well in the Chennai Airport.
As things stand today with just a handful of flights, Chennai Airport is OK, but when passenger traffic grows as it inevitably would, it would have challenges. On top of all the above issues, the airport plans to levy a fee of INR 750 [USD 12] per international passenger, which is simply not acceptable. There are no good food options once you get through the immigration and security check. There is hardly any shopping options. Why should passengers pay ?
A lot of improvement is required to enhance passenger experience at the new terminal, and apparently nobody is paying any attention or even seeking feedback from the travellers.
In any case, welcome to a brand new airport.
19th Oct 2013