Delhi’s new airport terminal ready to welcome visitors

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NEW DELHI - The sparkling new terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, touted among the largest and most modern in the world, will start international operations July 14 and domestic services 16 days later, it was announced Wednesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with National Advisory Council chair Sonia Gandhi and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, will formally inaugurate what is officially called the Terminal 3 building that can cater to 34 million passengers annually.

The total capacity of the existing international terminal is less than 15 million.

Officials with the Delhi International Airport Ltd, the terminal’s developer’s, who took the media for a sneak preview Wednesday, said the new infrastructure will be a welcome change from the worn-down international terminal passengers currently have to endure.

“Going by the sheer number of aerobridges alone, you can tell the difference,” said an official, making it clear that he was not authorised to speak with the media. “The international terminal used now has just 10 aerobridges, this one has 78.”

The ride from the Centaur Hotel in the vicinity to the new terminal had several pleasant sights - tall palm trees along the driveway, exotic foliage, colourful flowering plants, including orchids. “We have imported some of these from Mexico, Thailand and Gulf.”

Inside the airport, too, for those used to present international airport, the settings appear truly global. It has that touch of sophistication that one finds in some of the most modern airports in the world.

The check-ins, too, will be faster. With 168 check-in counters and 95 immigration desks both boarding the aircraft and getting out of the airport will be much faster, said the official, adding this process should not take more than 45 minutes at the outer limit.

The terminal has two piers, one each for international and domestic operations spanning 1.2 km from one end to the other. To cover the distances 63 elevators, 35 escalators and 92 automatic walkways will be pressed into service, officials said.

“This is work of over 30,000 workmen, engineers, architects and professionals from India and around 300 from abroad. They took just 37 months to achieve what had taken a whole of five years for building the new terminals at Beijing and London.”

The developers are led by the Bangalore-based infrastructure major GMR Group, with the state-run Airports Authority of India, Fraport of Germany and Malaysian Airport Holding as members of the consortium.

They claim that the new terminal will be the sixth largest in the world — after those at Dubai, Beijing, Singapore, Bangkok and Mexico City. It is a super-structure spread over 5.4 million sq ft, to give an experience of a city within, they added.

Another first for India will be the usage of in-line baggage handling system that will eliminate the need for passengers to get their luggage screened through x-ray machines before approaching the counter. Five levels of screening would have happened by then.

“The new system can handle around 12,800 bags per hour. It has a unique technology to detect explosives to ensure quicker processing and higher security. The baggage system also has 6.4 km of conveyor belts to deliver the baggage,” said the official.

Once the check-in and baggage formalities are complete, the terminal offers travellers a wide variety of shopping experience - it has 20,000 sq meters of retail area, including a large food court stocked with the best in Indian and global cuisine.

And at the backdrop of these large expanses are 100,000 sq ft of curtains imported from China, 110,000 sq mts of granite flooring from Bahrain and exotic plants and decorative art work depicting the signs used in Indian dance forms.

The developers have also kept in mind those who come to receive and see off passengers. The terminal has a multi-layer parking facility, also one of the first of its kinds in the country, that can accommodate 4,300 cars, with clear instructions on the slots.

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