An Air India flight from New York on Wednesday became the first commercial flight to arrive at the swanky new Terminal-3 (T3) at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) that left passengers rubbing their eyes in disbelief at its glitzy look.
The new T3 received its first batch of travellers when Air India's flight AI-102 from New York landed in the national capital Wednesday afternoon to witness the leap Indian aviation infrastructure has taken with the addition of this terminal.
Many passengers said they had never seen or expected such state-of-the-art facilities at an Indian airport terminal.
"When we first landed, it looked like the Hong Kong terminal from outside, and from the inside it is truly Indian with the carpets and the atmosphere. It is something I could have never imagined in India. So far so good, let's hope it remains this way," said New York resident Hemant Prajapati.
Built in a record 37 months at a cost of nearly $3 billion, the terminal indeed has a "foreign look", according to Kirti Purohit, 32, who was travelling with her two children. "It almost looks like an international terminal. It is a first time I saw a walkalator in India. This truly is special."
The sixth largest passenger terminal in the world was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 3 at a colourful function attended by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
VP Malik, a lawyer from New Delhi, said: "Now forget about the old airport. We have to compete in the world and through facilities like these we will be able to do so."
Speaking at a function to mark the first arrivals at the terminal, Kiran Kumar Grandhi, chairman of GMR Airports, said: "The aviation hub has finally come home. We always saw the aviation hubs outside India, but now terminal 3 is going to become an engine of growth and prosperity."
The Air India flight, though commercial in nature, was a part of an operational drill called 'terminal proving flights' which are meant to sort out any operational or technical glitches in the terminal.
Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) authorities pushed back the initial operations start date by 14 days to July 28 to provide more time to all stakeholders to deal with any glitches, including setting up of airline offices, synchronising security procedures, baggage handling and the whole range of airport operations.
"The alliance with DIAL is a part of the turnaround plan of Air India. We were waiting for an integrated terminal for a long time. Delhi will now be connected to a total of 22 international destinations, including new services to Melbourne and Chicago," said Arvind Jadhav, chairman and managing director of Air India.
"Air India's seats from Delhi will increase by 82,000 per week to about 104,000 per week. In the short run we expect to to benefit 8-9 per cent in savings and about 15-20 per cent in the long run," Jadhav added.
The world's largest jumbo jet Airbus A380 will call at T3 Thursday, with an Emirates flight from Dubai.
The unique new terminal spread over 5.4 million square feet can cater to 34 million passengers.
The terminal boasts of facilities like 78 aero-bridges, 168 check-in counters, 92 automatic walkways and five-level baggage screening system with a capacity to handle 12,800 bags per hour.
It has an eight-lane approach road from the city, a high speed Metro rail link to the Connaught Place city centre and a multi-level car park with capacity of 4,300 cars.