A swanky new international airport constructed by a private builder was thrown open for commercial use here but not without a certain amount of drama and excitement.
A Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt LH 753 was scheduled to be the first flight marking the beginning of commercial operations at the new airport but two SpiceJet aircrafts cornered the credit accidentally when they made some unscheduled arrival on Saturday night.
The two SpiceJet flights SG 397 from Ahmedabad and SG 393 from Mumbai landed 40 minutes ahead of schedule at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. The flights were scheduled to land at 0050 hrs and 0055 hrs respectively but landed at 0015 and 0020 hrs, GMR Group spokesperson said on Sunday.
“The Hyderabad-bound SpiceJet flights from Ahmedabad and Mumbai were rescheduled. We were not aware of rescheduling of the two flights at Ahmedabad and Mumbai airports,” officials said.
However, the ceremonial welcome as per the scheduled programme was given to the passengers of the Lufthansa flight only which touched down at midnight, officials added. The passengers of the Lufthansa flight with 276 on board were accorded a welcome by GMR Group Chairman G M Rao. A number of passengers expressed great admiration for the new airport, saying it can rival any international airport in global standards.
The emigration formalities at the old airport used to take more than two hours but at the new airport it was over in 30 minutes, said one of the passengers.
A number of them said they regularly travel abroad and were proud to have one such airport in the country. Commencement of commercial operations at the airport, about 40 km from the heart of the city where the old one at Begumpet simultaneously shut down at midnight, came eight days after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurated it on March 14.
The switchover due on March 16 had to be postponed following a request from few private airlines for more time besides “operational reasons” such as shifting of equipment.