Friday, August 6, 2010

Delhi's Sparkling New Terminal 3

I have a little more to share about Turkey but wanted to give initial thoughts around the new terminal in Delhi and it's quite possible other notable things might happen in India between now and the time I get around to finishing Turkey posts. As a result, I'm reserving the right to go back and talk more about the trip. Since I'm in charge here, that's allowed.

At 3:30am Tuesday morning, our Turkish Airlines flight pulled into Delhi's sparkling new Indira Ghandi International Airport Terminal 3, known also by the title of Schwarzeneggar's blockbuster film, "T3." I had read a couple headlines while away about it being a disorganized mess but found, for arrivals at least, it to be quite the opposite. Other than Lindsay not liking the carpet choice along the walk from the gate to immigration, the first impression of India is much more positive than with old Terminal 2.

When approaching the immigration counter, two things struck me. First, there are huge hand sculptures affixed to the wall in various yoga and/or spiritual poses. A nice touch. Second, the hierarchy (as I'm defining based on the proximity to the bottom of the escalator where passengers emerge) for passport holders to get to the appropriate immigration desk: (1) Diplomats, (2) First/Business Class, (3) Foreign Passport Holders, (4) Special Needs, (5) Indian Nationals. Maybe it's just me, but the fact that "special needs" being fourth wasn't the biggest surprise. It was the fact that Indian citizens being forced to go the furthest. The signs were electronic and easily interchangeable, but it still kind of seemed like they were saying, "Welcome home! Now, keep walking." It's quite possible it's a courtesy they extend to foreigners and I'm probably way overthinking this; however, wouldn't that be a nice little touch to extend those returning home? At the immigration desk next to us, there was a Greek family that we overheard was headed to a hospital (have no idea the reason) but there was some general confusion about their entry. They also had a plastic grocery bag stuffed full of fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes looked delicious, as far as tomatoes go, but something tells me they probably weren't still with the Greek family when they ultimately cleared customs.

At baggage claim, the bags starting coming out quickly but it still took over a half hour for our's to appear. Bags kept slowly appearing, just not our's. That's pretty much always the way it goes for us. Poor us, but not the end of the world. The only other minor slip-up at the baggage claim is that backpacks and other odd-shaped items come out in a plastic tub so that straps and pieces don't get caught. This is good. Unfortunately, once on the conveyor, the tubs would get caught on the lip where bags came out. Just a small quirk that they may or may not work through, but in the meantime it gives the attendant at the baggage claim something to do.

After claiming bags, we quickly cleared customs and our trusty driver Kailish was dutifully waiting for us, even though it was now after 4am. The walk to the car was longer than the old airport, but we also had to walk all the way to where the car was parked rather than just out to the curb. On the walk, the skyway between the elevators and the parking structure wasn't air conditioned but rather had been outfitted with industrial looking fans. For an airport claiming to be "world class" this seemed an odd place to stop short; however, it's possible that it's not 100% complete and it will be changed in the future. Regardless, not a big deal.

As a whole, other than the distances between places within the airport (which it's logical to expect that a new airport would be larger, so it's hard to find fault there), it was a pleasant experience and definitely a step up from the previous terminal. It looks like it should be more than sufficient for October's Commonwealth Games. Now, whether the rest of the Delhi area will be ready is an entirely different topic all together....

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