I’ve always been a die-hard Calcuttan. Born and brought up; live and work here.
Since the time the Hyderabad and Bangalore (not to mention Delhi and Mumbai) airports have been functional, I for one have been hoping that Calcutta would also have something to show to the rest of the country (and hopefully the world) — an airport which lived up to its status of a metro city. It is after all the first face of our city that any visitor would see. And last week, after a few failed deadlines, we were told it’s here — up and running!
I left for the Fashion Week in Delhi on the last Indigo flight on March 14, preoccupied with the stress of my collection to be on show the next day. The new airport loomed large and fabulous as we approached and I felt proud of what my city had finally achieved. Some finishing touches were still being given which was not unusual, I thought, given the magnitude of the project.
But I did notice two things: a counter that had run out of food despite there not being very many people at the airport and as I walked on the aerobridge to the aircraft, a lot of water falling from the centre of the roof of the aerobridge as if a large pipe had burst right in the middle of its ceiling. A passenger behind me sniggered “Already”? I gave him a dirty look, thinking to myself “teething problems”, skirted around it and walked on.
When I returned four days later, on Monday night, relaxed after a hectic fashion week, I was hoping to see the “teething troubles” more or less over. The airport looked good from the aircraft.
As I walked into the airport building I noticed unusual amounts of dirt on the escalator grooves. And then, a 3ft gap, wide enough for a child to fall through, at the head of the escalator with a sharp drop on the other side. Parts of the banister were held together by string! If I had a child with me I would be very worried.
Only two baggage carousels had flight numbers marked. The others had passengers waiting for luggage but no signage. Our baggage signage went off and never came back on again.
The toilet was FILTHY. Not filthy from overuse but filthy as if it had not been cleaned since the morning. There was no janitor. Toilet paper had not been placed in its holder. The tap was not working. No napkin in the holder. There was water all over the floor and it was not a pretty sight.
I can understand that systems sometimes go on the blink at the start-up stage. It’s happened at the best of airports, including Heathrow. But safety issues? And worse still, what does it take to ensure cleanliness and hygiene and availability of food for passengers. Is it really that difficult?
I had read that the new airport would be different from the old airport. That services would be outsourced to a professional agency who would ensure that the passenger experience would be on a par with the best in the world.
The new airport is a great step forward for Calcutta and the problems are easy to resolve, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be sorted immediately. I still hope that we will get it right and it will be a different experience when I fly again, very soon.
— KIRAN UTTAM GHOSH
People who haven’t travelled to Calcutta recently wouldn’t get it, but this was HUGE.
I took off for Fashion Week from the old airport on March 12. I landed at the NEW (it deserves all caps, come on) one on the night of March 18.
I didn’t know that flight to Delhi was the last time at the ‘Aaargh Airport’ (Metro so often called it that). I should have taken pictures. We all have some photos of our worst days. That horrible haircut at 14. That ugly Betty tee at 11.
The flight from Delhi landed on Monday night and Fashion Week fatigue flew out as soon as the bus (sorry, aerobridge for only the very lucky) and we got off on unfamiliar territory. A snazzy board, a dangling man fixing some things. The BB swung into click mode. N.E.W. A.I.R.P.O.R.T. O.M.G.
Inside was that newness all over. That smell when it’s not brand new and not yet lived in. The look of not brand new (don’t know how so soon it looks like that already) and not bashed out.
I still sent an overexcited text message to my boss. “N.E.W. A.I.R.P.O.R.T. O.M.G”. Beep. Reply. “Check out everything; the loos”.
I never venture near the loo at Calcutta airport. This time I had to. On assignment. The Ladies was FILTHY. All wet. Some dirty. Overstuffed garbage bags on display below the wash basin. I found and told a janitor that the loos are not clean. She The Surly shot back: “Ekhoni porishkar korlam (I just cleaned them).”
It looks N.E.W but, sadly, feels O.L.D.
In this city, the more things change the more they remain the same.