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Madness at Delhi airport

The airport — in the midst of a massive facelift — has shrunk considerably, leading to serpentine queues that regularly delay flights and stranded passengers missing to catch their flights, reports Sidhartha Roy.Airport city | graphics
Hindustan Times | By Sidhartha Roy, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2008 02:07 AM IST

Passengers trying to board flights at the Indira Gandhi International Airport have fainted or have had epileptic fits due to the claustrophobic conditions prompted by construction work that has led to the closure of large chunks of areas, airlines operating from the airport have said.

The airport — in the midst of a massive facelift — has shrunk considerably, leading to serpentine queues that regularly delay flights. People have missed their flights as they spend hours first battling a gut-crushing rush at the airport’s entrance and then the immigration counters during the peak travel season.

The elderly, handicapped, and passengers with children are suffering the most, a foreign airline said. It said in a letter to airport operator Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd. (DIAL) that the immigration counters posed the biggest bottleneck, as several counters were not operational at any given time due to construction.

If you are planning to board an international flight you might want to reach the airport at least four hours before the departure time, or chances are you would return home like Sanjay Kumar, a resident of Hagen in Germany, did when he missed his flight after spending more than an hour to enter the check-in lounge.

“The whole process of entering the airport and clearing the security check is maddening,” said Naunidhi Lamba, a Toronto resident who had come to celebrate her one-year-old daughter’s birthday.

“The queues are huge and the terminals claustrophobic. We had to run around madly to catch our flight in time, which thankfully got delayed as most passengers were stuck in the queues and could not reach the airline counter,” she said.

Airlines, including national carrier Air India, have asked DIAL to immediately tackle congestion at all points at the airport – from the road leading to the terminal to the security check points inside.

“Our flights are getting delayed by 30 to 45 minutes as congestion in the terminals mean passengers report late and we cannot close the counters in time. The frequent breakdown of the conveyor belt also leads to delay in loading baggage in aircraft,” said an Air India spokesman.

The renovation is expected to be complete by April. Admitting that the construction process was causing congestion, a DIAL spokesman said it would be comfortable for passengers if they reached the airport early.

“Flights, however, are not being delayed due to the construction work but due to late arrival of aircraft and other reasons,” he added. Built in 1986, IGI Airport’s international terminal was never meant to handle the traffic it gets now. Last year it got 20 million passengers.

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