The airport here boasts of an Rs.128.57-crore terminal building made of glass and steel. Yet, it is no better than the Mattuthavani bus terminus in the city when it comes to providing passenger friendly amenities.
A media contingent, gathered outside the terminal on Friday on official work, witnessed that the absence of basic facilities such as drinking water, telephone booth and chairs provided a harrowing experience for the visitors.
The new terminal has three gates located at equidistance. As per the original plan, the gate in the middle was meant for visitors who could enter the air-conditioned lounge on purchase of entry ticket costing Rs. 45 per head. The other two gates were meant for passenger entry and exit.
However, for administrative convenience, the officials had closed down the passenger entry gate and were using the gate in the middle for passenger as well as visitors’ entry. But they failed to shift the electronic flight information display board from the first gate to the second gate.
As a result, visitors, accompanying passengers, had to walk up to the first gate, under lock and key, and squeeze their eyes hard to find the status of the flights, scheduled for departure, through the dimly lit flight information display board.
The irony remains that even those who purchase entry tickets and get into the lounge cannot read the display board inside. It looks blank from a distance and can be read only from close by.
There was also no provision for drinking water outside the terminal. When a thirsty photojournalist entered the airport after purchasing an entry ticket to fetch drinking water from a water purification unit in the lounge, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel prevented him.
“Journalists are not allowed to enter the terminal with their cameras,” a CISF constable said sternly though he had no objection if other visitors happened to carry their cameras or mobile phones and tablet PCs capable of shooting even videos.
Later, an airport employee took pity on the journalist and offered to fetch water in an empty bottle. But he had to walk up to the arrival lounge as the water purification unit at the departure lounge was under repair and the tap was giving out salty water.
C. Meena, a homemaker, who had come to the airport to see off her husband bound to Chennai and from there to Qatar, said: “These people are not letting you (journalists) inside because they don’t want you to project the poor maintenance of the terminal.”
According to her, the washrooms in the terminal could be termed only as ‘not bad’ because they were not as immaculately clean as one would expect them to be in an airport. She also complained of poor maintenance of a childcare room in the airport.
“I wanted to feed my baby. But found that two of the three chairs in the childcare room, situated behind an ATM, were visible from the lounge. To top it all, the chairs with fabric upholstery were covered with mildew due to dampness. It shows the state of hygiene maintained in the airport,” she said with disgust.
When contacted, airport sources said that the maintenance of the airport had been handed over to a private housekeeping company based in Delhi.
That company had engaged 22 sanitary employees for cleaning the airport and it was their duty to keep it spick and span.
Seeking anonymity, one of the airport employees said that the terminal had been so poorly designed that when it rains even passengers get drenched while walking down from their cars to the entry point of the terminal. “There is no provision for them to get dropped under a shade,” he added.
Airport Director K. Sangaiah Pandian said: “There is no limit to improvement as well as criticism. I cannot satisfy people who are determined to criticise. We definitely take care of hygiene in the airport but it is equally important for the users to cooperate.”
He pointed out that a senior diplomat from Australia had appreciated the amenities in the Madurai airport during his recent visit. He also said that Madurai was one of the few airports in the country that permitted visitors to enter the terminal for seeing off their friends and relatives.