For much of India’s post-independence history, the Mumbai airport was a veritable gateway for passengers flying into the country. At the beginning of the current decade, however, the airport surrounded by slums lost its number one status as much of the country’s aviation business got centred around New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Now a swanky new terminal opening Friday will seek to bring Mumbai the facilities it was lacking, inadequacies that had not only pushed up operating costs but also thwarted plans of increasing flights. To be inaugurated by the Prime Minister, it is the showpiece of a rebuilt Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, an exercise worth Rs 12,500 crore undertaken by the Hyderabad-based GVK that in 2006 won the rights to run the airport.
Named T2, the sprawling “one-roof” terminal spans 47.27 lakh sq feet. The four-storey structure will integrate the existing domestic and international terminals, now far apart. It will cater to 40 million passengers a year.
“The old terminal had a capacity of 25 million passengers annually. In 2012-13, the airport saw close to 30.20 million passengers, so you can imagine the type of constraints under which the system was operating,” says an official involved in the development of the airport. “The new terminal will have a capacity of 40 million passengers and will offer them a completely different experience.”
Designed by New York firm SOM, the terminal has turned out to be a marvel in terms of both aestethics and utility. It has 188 check-in counters with 60 departure immigration and 72 arrival immigration counters. Its 10 baggage carousels with a combined length of six kilometres can handle 9,600 bags per hour. It has 72 lifts, 48 escalators and 37 travelators.
And it has India’s largest multi-level car park, with a capacity of 5,200. A brand new road 3.35 km long, with six lanes and elevated, will bring passengers from Western Express Highway and drop them on the top floor. The new road is expected to cater to 70 per cent of the airport traffic.
SOM has used the motif of a peacock to design the structure. Its 6,420 specially designed colour filter lenses, crafted into the sculpted ceiling, seek to recreate a resemblance to a peacock’s feathers.
A layout of 272 skylights gives the head house roof the look of being studded with jewels. At 500 sq m each, the 28 major skylights are the largest ever built in Asia, while the 244 minor skylights are 140 sq m each.
Work on the terminal, which began in February 2009, was expected to have been completed by September 2013. The shift of a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji was among the factors that affected the schedule.
The four-floor structure, with zones demarcated for departures and arrivals, came about because Mumbai is short of horizontal space. Airport developers usually go for a pancake-like structure, but in Mumbai the total operational area is only 1,400 acres, compared to the 5,123 acres in Delhi.
Facilities include retail space of 2.26 lakh sq ft and India’s largest public art display, called “Jaye He.” It will have nearly 7,000 artefacts displayed along an art wall 3 km long. It will also have India’s largest airport nursery with 77,000 plants of 80 species.
“It will be a distinctive narrative of India’s diversity,” an official says.