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Global terminal, rustic spirit

Let's put it this way. Delhi airport's international terminal building has undergone what TV terms an “extreme makeover” in the last two years.

delhi Updated: May 11, 2010 00:51 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Let's put it this way. Delhi airport's international terminal building has undergone what TV terms an “extreme makeover” in the last two years.
Till 2008, it resembled a crushed grey safari two piece, battered briefcase in hand.
Today it looks like a sharp suit. With an apple notebook.
But you still have to take a chance on getting free, clean drinking water at Terminal 2 (T2) because a dispenser may be broken. You will still have to queue up to get immigration clearance.
Inside its new-look body, T2 still carries the ghost of babudom.

Welcome, traveller
“Everything looks changed from the time I last passed through IGIA,” says Jagtar Singh, a UK-based NRI returning to Delhi after a decade. “But the quality of services is still not at par with other international airports.”
The sum DIAL — the concessionaire firm responsible for upgrading and maintaining the airport — spent on the makeover is undisclosed, but easily runs to more than Rs 100 crore. In the last three years — the cosmetic surgery began in late 2008 — there have been improvements, but from roofs that leak when it rains to bad air-conditioning, some problems persist like a toothache.
“A gust of hot air welcomes you when you come out of your plane and set foot on the aerobridge,” says Sumit Jain, a Delhi-based businessman who travels abroad regularly. “The aerobridges are not well maintained and there are not enough escalators.”

Obstacle race
Immigration delays for arriving passengers remain the single biggest problem at IGIA. “The immigration counters are always crowded and the process takes up forever,” says Jain.
DIAL officials say the number of immigration counters has increased. The catch? Many counters still remain unmanned, leading to queues.
And then there is the case of baggage claim. Retreiving your luggage can take 30 minutes during peak hours, when many flights arrive at the same time.

Fear the mob
Fact: The departure hall is bigger and DIAL has expanded the ramp at T2.
Fact: More traffic marshals have been appointed to navigate vehicles outside the terminal.
Also, fact: At midnight rush hour, the area outside the international terminal is as crowded as ITO crossing at 9 am.
This is not entirely surprising.
The great Indian send-off ensures sometimes contingents of families — in cars — come to see off a couple of passengers. Out-station passengers who arrive hours before check in time cram the kerb opposite the terminal.

Silver lining
Flying out of IGIA is smoother than arriving here. Checking in, registering bagage and security checks are faster than before, thanks to the new in-line baggage handling system.
And there is hope on the horizon — the integrated Terminal 3, expected to open in July. “I'm waiting with bated breath for T3 to open,” says Jain.