The Delhi Airport Experience

April 30, 2007

Due to some relatives arriving for a family tragedy, I spent some time at Delhi airport, both domestic and international. Some experiences from the departure and arrival locations:

Let me start with the most positive experience. I had to pick some people up from the international terminal (Indira Gandhi International Airport). It seemed smooth as silk if you are willing to pay up a bit.

First park your vehicle in the car park (Rs. 120 if you want to park in the premium car parking), and then pay Rs. 60 for each entry intro the arrival lounge. Ideally, you wave to your visitors as they arrive and take them to the car parking. Only problem is that the premium car parking is pretty small. The regular parking is pretty decent as well.

Next is the departure from international. This is also fairly convenient, you drop your visitors at the gate. Trolleys are available without a problem, and as long as you don't stay too long there, the traffic police and the cranes do not disturb you. However, and this is where I have seen people behaving strangely; they actually stay there for extended farewells, even though space there is limited. I have seen a few even arguing with traffic police, something that I would not believe could happen in a lot of other countries.

Now comes the incredible domestic terminals. These are special, especially during peak times. First, on the route to the domestic terminal, you see a number of cars lined along the road, with a driver waiting for a call to pick them up. The route is not exactly very broad, and with these cars lined along the road, the traffic route into the terminal gets more choked. Makes me wonder, are these people so stingy that they cannot afford to pay the parking fee or are they so self-centered that they really do not care?

The parking in the domestic terminal is a mess. Given the number of flights, the number of vehicles using the parking has increased tremendously while space has remained same; and this is where things get frustrating.

Everybody in the Government was aware of the increase in flights, and yet a contract to modernize the airports took so much time; with so much politicking. As a result, discomfort to people using the airport has increased, and measures to improve things will take much more time.

Leaving people at the domestic terminal departure is still fine; but the arrival could do with a lot more improvement. Twice in succession it has happened that I am looking at the arrival billboard, and while the airline arrival is still not confirmed, the people that I came to pick up came out.

In addition, the arrival open area seems like a fish market, with so many people packed into a small area. They really need to increase the area available. The improvement from a few months back is that you have more stalls with things to eat and drink, something desperately needed if you are waiting in the heat.

Experiences inside the airport is another matter, with a separate story.

Ashish is a blogger who got bit by the blogging charm a few months back, and it has hit him good. He is able to express himself through his blogs. Currently working with a software manufacturing company in NCR, India. Did a BE and then an MBA and has been working for around 9 years now. Is pretty passionate about current affairs, but did not have a vehicle to express his opinions till now. I primarily blog at Modern Indian Man, also write about Delhi, Tech News, and Photos 1 & 2
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Deepti Lamba
April 30, 2007
12:54 AM

There should be a separate entry for quick drops and people should not be allowed to loiter around. The cops need to be more proactive as most Indians respond only to the fear of the law.

Its not just the airports, there are Desis jumping the lines, breaking traffic laws and doing general stupid things and when you pull them up one gets the same dimwitted argument- Its a free country and I can do whatever I want!

As if democracy gives them the right to behave like animals!

April 30, 2007
02:23 AM

Ashish, I travel on and off inside and out of India and so I can easily sense what you are trying to convey.

Mumbai and B'lore airports are the ones I use the most. Mumbai is a step better than B'lore as you have different terminals for domestic and international flights. Come to B'lore, its a mess during peak hours as it caters to both international and domestic flights from the same place.

Well things are improving on a fast pace and the new international airport is under construction and the speed of progress is impressive. It is more than 40-45% complete [not sure of the exact figures but its in that range] and would be up and running in operational mode soon.

You know what is causing all this problem. Lack of planning and foresight. I am no great strategist have completed 4 years of work life by now, after my graduation in Engineering. But can you tell me if I am wrong in these 2 points of my reasoning.

1. Indian aviation ministry gives clearance to a new private domestic airline service or a new foreign player's entry to Indian skies almost every 6 months in the last 2 years. While giving this clearance, don't they think about the infrastructre capabilities we have ? Fine we should not miss this opportunity of growth that we are seeing in India today but what have you done to make up for the improvement in infrastructre. Does the pace of it match the pace of growth which we are witnessing. If 'NO', then there is a big big mistake in the way we did our planning, isn't it ?

2. The entire government machinery is still living with a mindset of 19th century, trying hard to follow the processes of the 20th century and are running ahead to win the race in the 21st century.

April 30, 2007
02:25 AM

delhi domestic terminal is a mess. on top of all the things you mentioned (it took us 15 minutes for the cab we were in to just find one small space to stop us off while whole families were chatting away outside their cars) the terminal itself is chaos. There are not enough seats to handle the crowds, and there are very few refreshments on sale. Our 2 hour wait there was unbearable. As I had noted in a separate post here, the people behaved badly, refusing to let a mother trying to feed her infant sit down. I also had to struggle for a seat, and I am six months pregnant. People were indifferent and at times cold, as evidenced by one man who actually ran to get an empty seat while i was clearly walking toward it. He then refused to look at me as he nicely sat there while I continued to stand, back aching.

April 30, 2007
03:30 AM

#2, I completely agree, but I would think more in terms of planning is the problem. And more and more, depending on government agencies for planning is the problem. I am all in favour of private airlines coming in fast so that cost of transportation becomes cheaper, rather than the ridiculous levels it was before. But, the agency responsible for airport planning is a govt agency, and hence not very proactive in planning.
#3, I read your comments earlier in a post, and I completely empathize. This lack of courtesy is getting to be a severe problem. If you are faced with a pregnant lady / old person or other person who is obviously in need of a seat, how can a person continue to sit there without a concern ? Although, I still see people standing and offerig their seat when necessary, just that it does not happen enough.

April 30, 2007
03:31 AM

Delhi,Mumbai and Bangalore Airports are strictly better off than they were 3-5 years ago. At the pace of improvement, it is only a matter of time before it meets your service standards.

Deepa Krishnan
April 30, 2007
11:16 AM

I travel international once a month, and Bombay International airport is absolutely lovely. There is no waiting at immigration, bags come soon, there is a free shuttle to domestic, there are prepaid taxis, everything works.

The domestic airport is really swanky now.

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