Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The New Kolkata Airport

On my recent trip to Pune, I flew out of the new airport at Kolkata. This was the first time I took a flight since the new airport opened.

While living in Delhi during my masters, I always made it a point to reach early for the flight home to Kolkata to hang out at the airport. The then new Delhi airport was beautiful and the array of shops and outlets made waiting for my flight a pleasure. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I found the new Kolkata airport looks very much like the Delhi airport.

When I flew out of the Kolkata, it was the middle of May 2013 and only four or five shops had opened but once the entire set up is operational, the aiport promises to be something we Calcuttans can boast of.
As of the day of my flight, only two food joints were operational, a pizza place and a Cafe Coffee Day. There was a weird little book-shop that sold everything from magazines to Darjeeling tea and not too many books. There were a couple of other shops  I don't really recall.

What struck me about the airport was the number of security check in gates. Gone are the days of queuing at the only security check point. Check in was fast and easy. Since the airport had opened just about a month before, there were still a lot of confused passengers and the staff was really helpful. The Jet Airways personnel were really friendly and chatty and somehow, the passengers were more relaxed and friendly than  any other time that I remember.

I think the ambiance had something to do with it. With the soft instrumental music and high ceiling, the check-in area was almost lounge-like. Even in the waiting area, there were some La-Z Boy-esque chairs with foot rests. They were never free though and I didn't get a chance to sit in one of those.

 However, the regular chairs were also comfortable and they were right next to giant glass walls that looked over the runway.

It was in one of these chairs that I settled into with a cold coffee and Dan Brown's new book, Inferno and read and sipped and watched the aeroplanes.

Just a while before boarding, I was shaken out of my peaceful reverie by a commotion. People were rushing to take photographs of some ICC T-20 team. I cursed myself for not being updated on the latest T-20 teams since SRK sacked Saurav. I felt a little foolish taking pictures of foreign cricketers I didn't recognize and so I roamed around the airport a little till the general excitement died down.

There are some 25 boarding gates in all and I think that is pretty awesome and right up there with many international airports. The ceiling is covered with huge, and I mean huge, stylized bengali letters. The over all atmosphere is very international, yet, from the chatty man at the Jet Airways counter to the queues in front of the bathroom to dashing after cricketers to bengali script on the roof, very very Kolkata.

Kolkata, my beloved yet much criticized city, is finally ready to receive the world in a world-class airport that still manages to be different from your average airport and retain the spirit that is the City of Joy.

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