Delhi’s new airport terminal gets first rush of visitors

July 3rd, 2010 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) Delhiites may get a glimpse of the new international airport terminal only July 14 but its inauguration Saturday saw the city’s invited political and bureaucratic elite explore the inside of the facility — without any passport or flight ticket.
White canvas cloth was erected on both sides of the road leading to Terminal 3 - the new facility at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here.

The visitors for the inaugural function had to first navigate through a traffic jam, just a few metres before the entrance.

The jam was only to be expected as thousands of cars converged at the same time to access the new multi-level car parking facility in front of the airport.

Ambassador cars with flashing red beacons, autorickshaws and flashy SUVs waited in the bumper-to-bumper jam, which moved at a snail’s pace.

Inevitably, several visitors, clutching invitation cards in their hands, decided to make the journey on foot onto the curving ramp up to the departure area with flags of India and other countries fluttering in the slight breeze.

In front of the rows of check-in counters with the computer screens blank, thousands of seats were laid out row after row in the massive cathedral-like space.

At one end, a stage had been erected with the logo of the GMR group and Indira Gandhi International Airport in the background.

The seats were colour-coded - red ribbons for special invitees, green for media and blue for employees, with the latter enclosure completely jampacked.

Officials and employees, several of them foreign nationals, were dressed in their best suits and sarees as they shook hands and embraced each other to congratulate themselves on the opening of the airport.

Santoor player Rahul Sharma and his band regaled the audience - but the acoustics in the enormous space made the bass sound of the drum into a deafening boom.

The guests arrived, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel took their seats on the dais along with GMR group chairman G.M. Rao.

The inaugural function was marked with resounding applause from the audience, especially from the employees, who Gandhi referred as the “quiet unsung heroes and heroines”.

For the invitees, the best part of the function came at the end - when they walked through the entire airport to reach the arrival area, where a lunch buffet awaited them.

It was a novel experience. Visitors rambled past the check-in counters, navigated the empty immigration kiosks and smoothly went through the silent security machines - the only exception being the continuous beeps of metal detectors.

After the security area, the space opens up to massive windows which frame a vista of the aerobridges, painted in white with Indian design motifs like a dancing dandia couple and a temple gopuram.

The duty-free shelves were bare but the evocative logos of the shops were lit with neon - Givenchy, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and scores of international luxury brands. Luminescent lights marked the dark interiors of the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Delhi Daredevil’s sports bar.

The automatic walkways were duly used, the seats in the waiting lounge checked with a quick sit-in and wall murals admired, as employees showed their families around their workplace.

Inevitably, camera phones were out in force as visitors took pictures and videos of their tour of the new airport terminal, especially at the atrium which housed the immigration counters for arriving passengers.

As mementoes, the first day cover released by India Post was most sought after. Employees bought these special envelopes to remember the day.

The actual operations for the airport will start July 14, with Air India’s AI307 from New York the first flight to arrive at 4.45 p.m.

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