(From left) The canopied walkway made of fibreglass starts from Gate 1A of the arrival terminal at Calcutta airport and ends at the stop for air-conditioned buses to destinations within the city and Howrah. The waiting area, where the walkway forms a T-head, has 25 cushioned seats. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta
A 300m-long fibreglass canopy has been built from the arrival terminal to the stop for air-conditioned buses at Calcutta airport to shield fliers from the sun, rain and, of course, flying glass shards.
A similar canopy, but double the length, exists on the tarmac side of the airport. It was built primarily to protect passengers from the glass panels that have been notoriously cracking and crashing last year at regular intervals. Before a flying shard impaled a flier, the authorities erected awnings at the 20 entrance and exit gates on the terminal’s city side and seven at the air side bus boarding gates.
“The idea was to provide protection from the breaking glass. Then we decided to extend the canopy till the bus stop,” airport director B.P. Sharma told Metro.
Built at a cost of Rs 24 lakh, the new canopied walkway starts from Gate 1A and stands on a steel structure. It takes the shape of a T-head at the bus stop where 25 cushioned seats have been installed.
The stop for the AC bus service to Calcutta and Howrah, which lies between the new and the old airports, was in an open area bereft of any shade from the elements and the heat reflecting from the glass walls of the building or the tiled walkway.
“The moment I emerged from the terminal I realised how hot it was but, thankfully, the walk to the bus stop was a breeze because of the overhead canopy,” said Mayank Jhunjhunwala, an MBA student from Goa. “I had to wait for over 20 minutes for a bus. It was okay since I had a place to sit and a shade over my head,” he added.
Airport director Sharma said: “For the second phase, the plan is to build an elevator close to the bus stop connecting arrival and departure. It will be connected to the terminal through a glass corridor.”
The elevator will take fliers arriving by bus to the departure terminal on the first floor. They will not need to walk till the elevator between gates 3A and 3B, which is over 100m from the bus stop.
Airport officials said they have been flooded with complaints about the long walk under a scorching sun or pelting rain from the arrival lounge to the bus stop since the new terminal opened in March last year.
People questioned the rationale behind the Rs 450 (from each passenger of domestic flights) and Rs 1,125 (on every international ticket) as user development fee that the Airports Authority of India charges if it cannot provide basic facilities to fliers.
The fee is being levied since March 15 last year to ensure a “fair return” on the AAI’s Rs 2,324-crore investment in building the new terminal.
Officials said providing protection from the sun and rain to passengers pushing trolleys or lugging luggage to the bus stop and installing seats at the waiting area were priorities that could not be discounted.
“We have just arrived from Howrah station in a Volvo bus and wanted to relax for some time before entering the airport. This shade has been a boon because of the heat,” said N.N. Jha, who was to catch a flight to Chennai with wife Bina. He reached Howrah by train from Ranchi and took a bus from the station.
“I was here a few months ago and this canopy wasn’t there then. It was tough.”