The soft launch of the new terminals at the Chennai airport may be conducted in a few days but they may be fully operational only by April, say airport officials.
A number of facilities are still unavailable and many procedures are yet to be completed. For instance, the laying of cables and setting up of counters with computers for airlines is pending.
An official of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) added that the inspections by officers of the rank of Executive Director and Member from the Operations and Engineering wings of the AAI have not been conducted. A safety audit and inspection by officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation are also yet to be done, the officer said.
A senior AAI official conceded that the State government had clearly told the AAI that the work in the terminals had to be completed before they were inaugurated. But, the AAI is going ahead with the inauguration without all the work being complete.
The State government has convened a coordination meeting with the AAI and other enforcing agencies on January 28 at the Secretariat. The meeting is expected to be chaired by Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishnan, the officer said.
The AAI has spent Rs. 2,300 crore for the project, which commenced in 2008.
Airport sources also alleged that the Airline Operators Committee (AOC) had pointed to the non-completion of work and also, certain problems in the baggage break-up and make-up areas. But, the AAI is planning the inauguration of the terminals by Vice-President Hameed Ansari without rectifying any of them, they said. Several pleas from the AOC had fallen on deaf ears and ultimately the passengers are going to suffer, said airport sources.
Originally, the AAI planned to install walkalators connecting the domestic and international terminals.
This was later dropped. Similarly, the proposal to have multi-level car parking was also scrapped by the AAI which cited fund constraints as the reason. The existing car parking facility will not be sufficient once the new terminals are operational, the AAI sources added.
When contacted, H.S. Suresh, Chennai Airport Director, said the Civil Aviation Ministry had sent invitations directly to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and a few Parliamentarians from the State and that as of now, the programme would be held as scheduled.
D. Sudhakar Reddy of Air Passengers Association of India said passengers would be put to great inconvenience if the new terminals lacked multi-level car parking and a walkalator.
“A large amount of public money has already been wasted due to the delay in the project. This is because of the change of plans on several occasions which has led to a cost escalation,” he added.