Calcutta airport’s long-delayed integrated terminal has become “deadline-proof” with top officials of the Airports Authority of India refusing to commit themselves to any future target, citing reasons beyond their control.
The terminal has already dodged three deadlines and is sure to miss the fourth, the blame this time falling on the company contracted to supply aerobridges.
“We can fix a date only after the equipment arrives, or is at least on its way. This is not in our hands as of now,” said a senior AAI official who declined to be named.
Indonesian firm PT Bukaka Teknik Utama has failed to meet its delivery schedule for 18 aerobridges, a problem that Chennai airport had also faced. The similarities don’t end there. The modernisation project at Chennai airport, like the one in Calcutta, is being handled by the AAI.
The delay in installing aerobridges at both these airports is in contrast to the time-bound implementation of the privately executed modernisation projects in Delhi and Mumbai, both much larger in scale than Calcutta and Chennai’s.
Delhi’s T3 has 78 aerobridges and Mumbai’s T2 has 76. Terminal 3 was ready in 37 months, against a target of 42 months.
The aerobridges for the integrated terminal were supposed to reach the city in the first week of August, based on which the AAI had targeted a peak-season Puja inauguration.
“The October date for inauguration had been calculated on the basis of the delivery schedule for aerobridges sent to us. But the dates of shipment from Indonesia were postponed several times. We can’t say when the new terminal will be ready unless the equipment sets sail,” the AAI official said.
Metro had highlighted the possibility of the terminal not being fully ready for operations this year even as the authorities said they were optimistic about a Puja start.
On an average, close to 15,000 passengers use the poorly equipped domestic terminal building daily while 6,000-odd pass through the international terminal.
The authorities had planned to ask a few international airlines to shift operations to the integrated terminal by Puja and move domestic operations in phases over the next two to three months.
This was apparently based on an assurance by the Indonesian company that six aerobridges would be shipped on October 10. The aerobridges were originally scheduled to arrive in August.
Various airlines have said they would not shift to the new terminal unless the aerobridges were in place. “It is not practical to shift without aerobridges. Boarding and disembarking processes in the new terminal have been designed with aerobridges in mind,” said Sarvesh Gupta, the chairman of the Airlines Operators’ Committee at Calcutta airport.
Officials in the civil aviation ministry blamed poor planning by the AAI for the cycle of delays. “The order for 18 aerobridges had been placed in 2010. The order was cancelled after the Union home ministry raised some objections regarding security. The Indonesian firm got the contract in early 2011,” a ministry official said.
There were similar delays in choosing private operators for the lounges, food courts and retail outlets at the new terminal. An airport official said the process of inviting and selecting bids was yet to be completed.
Installation of software at the immigration and customs counters are also far from completion.