|Raima sen turns Metro reporter for a day. her beat? the new airport
|Raima Sen enters the new terminal to catch the Jet Airways flight to Bangkok on Sunday night. Picture by Pabitra Das
[FLIGHT TO CATCH: 9W 066 11MAR CCU-BKK 0130]
Signage and approach road
It was a very clear and easy passage to the airport. Thanks to the dedicated flyover, thereís no more worrying about last-minute traffic snarls caused by cars, buses and taxis not bound for the airport fighting to pass through the same route.
First look of the airport facade
(Leaning out of the car window on the flyover) So beautiful, so sleek! Iíve just come back from Dubai and while this is not anywhere as big as the Dubai airport, it definitely looks as good as any international airport that Iíve been to in India and abroad. I wonder whoís designed it? The facade is beautifully done. The glass and gloss, the shine and sheenÖ. In fact, I think it looks better than the Bombay airport. It feels like I could be anywhere in the world.
[The domestic portion is designed by ADPI of France and Sikka Associates, India, while the international section is by Strata of Hong Kong and VK Associates, India. The structural design of the building is by Mehro, Delhi.]
The Bong connection
(Looks up at the ceiling above the international departure gates and is struck by the Bengali alphabet that adorns the ceilings) Wow! Thatís such a cool ideaÖ it gives you a feel of the city and its rich heritage of language and literature. Very impressive! It looks very spick and span till now. (Stepping in) Itís so large and spaciousÖ
Clean-it machines and mops
As we walked in, I noticed cleaners either rubbing the floors with automated machines or hard at work with their little brushes and mops. That was a pleasant sight because the previous airport wore such a shabby look. Here passengers are prompted to be conscious before they think of littering the place. A lot of thought seems to have gone into the waste disposal arrangements, unlike the previous airport, with designated biodegradable waste sections.
The toilet test
Itís a nice and big loo but I would like to see someone here at all times to keep a check on the hygiene. Lots of wash basins and lots of compartments within the toilet, which is a good thing. People donít want to stand and wait in a queue when theyíre in a rush to catch a flight. And, jostle around in a loo that stinks or is dirty. I hope they make sure there is enough soap in the dispensers, sufficient tissues and the flushes continue to work.
Iím also glad to see drinking water basins alongside the toilets. These are essential but were missing from the old airport and Iím glad that theyíve paid attention to install these and planted signages to help you easily locate them.
Unfortunately, the ladiesí toilet after immigration could do with some immediate attention because the floors were wet, the two wash basins didnít have water in any of the taps and one of the lights in the two compartments wasnít working. I hope this will not turn out to be a spoiler in the future.
Looks & sounds good, but damn that mosquito
I like the light shades on the walls. The music, soft and instrumental, is quite soothing.
But Iíve never had to face mosquitoes in any airport that Iíve travelled to around the world. This was a problem I faced in the old airport and I find this problem persists here. I spoke to one of the airport managers and he explained that the area has been fumigated and work is still on but they should probably do that more frequently to completely remove the mosquito menace.
The Port Lounge is huge and beautiful. A variety of things to eat and drink from fruit cake and gulab jamun to chilli chicken and vegetable makhani to a selection of juices, thatís great. (Yes, Iím a foodie!)
Smiley faces to sniffer dogs
I could spot two help desks, which is a good thing. I guess theyíre still waiting to fill the seats with personnel. Once itís operational, it will be very useful for first-time passengers at the new terminal.
I didnít know where the money exchanger was so I had to ask and the staff seemed eager to help. It was good to see so many happy, smiley faces. I guess that reflects the general mood that the new airport has brought in and it is definitely generating a positive vibe among the passengers. But I hope this happy atmosphere continues as passengers and airlines increase.
I see a lot of men in khaki and sniffer dogs, which means theyíre taking good care of the security. This is a larger airport and I guess security has to be tighter.
|Raima sen turns Metro reporter for a day. her beat? the new airport
|Raima Sen exits the new terminal after arriving from Bangkok by a Jet Airways flight on Monday afternoon.
Picture by Pabitra Das
Checkpoint to checkpoint
There seem to be quite a few check-in counters. Hopefully this will prevent those long queues and the need to stand for hours to get a boarding pass. The counters are well spaced out and not confusing.
Even though the airport is big, the distances arenít much. The check-in counter to the security check was quite close and from the immigration to the gates, we really didnít need to walk a lot. Iím glad to see walkalators connecting the gates. I wish these were operational so I could have hopped over and skipped the walk, though I was enjoying that too! The gates are digitally numbered, plenty of flight departure display monitors ensure you are aware of your flight status no matter where youíre sitting or standing.
|Raima strides into the new terminal on Sunday night
I spotted a Cafe Coffee Day on entering the airport, which is yet to open, and a snack outlet after immigration that was nice and well-stocked with Pringles and Mars to sandwiches and patties. Sometimes if I was in the mood for a light snack I could never find quality stuff at the old airport but I was quite impressed to see this little corner here.
The racks are empty except for a selection of alcohol, but from the look of it, the arrangement is like what Iíve seen at other airports. I hope they fill it up soon with interesting things for which one wouldnít need to depend on other national and international duty-free shops.
Wait and watch the runway
The seating space looks neat and smart. Itís nice to sit, wait and watch the flights take off through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, it really gives you the feel of an airport. The floors were squeaky clean and they should keep it that way. The little carpeted stretch at the departure gate lends elegance.
No smoking room
I couldnít spot a smoking zone but all big airports have it and so should the Calcutta airport. A designated area that is neat and segregated gives the airport a professional look.
|Raima sits pretty in the impressive Port Lounge. Pictures: Mohua Das
||Raima finds something good to snack on after clearing immigration
Out of charge
Everything at this new airport is so passenger-friendly but I couldnít spot Internet kiosks or phone & laptop charging stations. This is essential now because people are constantly on the move, theyíre always on their laptops and phones especially when youíre alone and need to keep yourself engaged (which I so often am). Itís a must-have at all international airports. They could also install Internet kiosks at some of the blank pillars now meant for blowers mounted inside.
Bridge to board
The aerobridge too looks and feels so nice but I donít know if itís a great idea to have it all carpeted because thereís already water dripping from the air-conditioning vents above that have left stains at two or three spots. That might become a problem later on.
[FLIGHT TOUCHDOWN: 9W 071 11MAR BKK-CCU 1550]
The exit from the aircraft to immigration was a short walk, which is very convenient especially when you have duty-free packets along with your hand baggage. The walk in Bombay is extremely long and can get very inconvenient because Iím holding so many heavy packets, there are no porters and you canít get hold of a trolley till you get to the luggage belt area. I was dreading that walk here, but was pleasantly surprised.
There seemed to be more than 10 immigration counters manned by sufficient staff to get the lines moving and ensure quick clearance.
|Raima on the aerobridge leading to the Jet Airways aircraft bound for Bangkok, the first international flight to leave the new terminal
Look and feel
I got that international feel. Itís looking empty because there arenít too many passengers yet. Itís very steel and graniteÖ not too much of decoration. Itís spacious and sprawling, like most international airports are, but maybe some minimal, sober and traditional art and sculpture would add some warmth, give a visitor a feel of Calcutta just like the departure gate does. Also, once the shops and cafes open and they add some duty-free shops like all other international airports, the arrival will look more colourful.
The belts were pretty close to each other but I wasnít sure of which belt my suitcase was going to arrive on. I think that should be specified somewhere. I did ask someone who was there to assist and they seemed to be a bit clueless. Itís a minor thing but it helps prevent confusion. Once I came down the escalator I was impressed to see digital displays designating the belt. There were hundreds of trolleys neatly lined up and easy to find.
Just after stepping out with the luggage, I was glad to see signage mounted on the pillars pointing to the prepaid taxi booths. Itíll be easier for me to direct my friends who come to the city for the first time and get confused and wander around for information and transport availability. Money exchange, Mega Cab service, prepaid taxi booths are already operational but I wish there were some cops also at the police assistance booth. That apart, I saw a row of counters for Volvo bus, pharmacy, post office and railway booking, which is perfect for any visitor coming through the international airport.
The toilet test
Really big and I could see two attendants who were at work, sweeping the floors and trying to keep it clean, which is a good sign.
See you, soon!
It was a smooth and easy exit. On stepping out, it was nice to see a different view with an interesting looking car park area with trimmed semi-circular steps above where one could spot greens and tiny flowers. Far from the chaos that we had become so used to, the pretty and pleasant surroundings of the new airport set the mood and prepare you for the rest of your stay.
Canít wait for my next take-off!
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