The arrivals hall of the new international terminal at Chennai airport is nowhere close to being operational

The expansion of Chennai airport began six years ago. Two years past the project’s deadline, the departure halls of the new international and domestic terminals were inaugurated and subsequently, commissioned last year.

Later, the arrival hall of the domestic terminal was also opened. But the vast international arrivals hall at the new terminal is yet to be commissioned.

Insufficient number of Customs staff is one of the major reasons for the delay, say officials of Airports Authority of India (AAI). A request for additional manpower was sent (to the finance ministry) long ago, but no sanctions have been made since, said the official.

The presence of just one baggage ramp — that facilitates the transport of luggage between the terminals and the aircraft — in the new international terminal could also be an issue.

If the arrivals hall is thrown open for use with just one ramp, it may cause congestion, leading to delay in baggage retrieval, said the AAI official.

Though there is a proposal to construct a second ramp at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, it may take time to be built.

“If the ramp is to be constructed now, some portions have to be razed and it may take a while. What is the point of thinking of constructing a ramp now? Shouldn’t they think of such facilities at the planning stage itself?” said another AAI official.

According to a recent government audit, there was a loss of interest of Rs. 48 crore owing to the delay in commissioning of the new international terminal.

Sudhakar Reddy of Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) said, “Most often, we complete the check-in and security procedures at the new terminal, take a long walk and then board from the old terminal. We wait endlessly to collect the baggage and the toilets here perennially stink. Even after expenditure of Rs. 2,000 crore, we continue to face these problems.”