Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport combines world-class facilities with quintessential regional elements
Modern airports today are much more than transit hubs – places used by travellers to fly in and out of their chosen destinations. Today, airports woo passengers with ritzy duty-free shops, beckoning them with perfumes, chocolates and branded liquor. Some airports go the extra mile, to provide travellers with decadent spas, luxury lounges and even movie theatres!
Holding its place high in the list of top airports in the world is Kolkata’s recently refurbished international airport, which is the gateway to the Eastern and Northeastern parts of India and effectively handles more than 26 million passengers each year. It is the fifth busiest airport in the country after Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru airports. The airport is the largest in Eastern India, with 24 international and 10 domestic airlines operating out of it and promises to become a major aviation hub in the years to come.
The airport, originally known as Dum Dum Airport, was built on an open parade ground, vacated by Bengal Artillery, in the 1930s. It was traditionally used as a stopover for flights to Jakarta and Australia. In 1927, KLM used it as a stopover for the Amsterdam-Jakarta flight and the very same year, the British Royal Air Force started using the runway for operating its flights.
The airport became the destination for the world’s first jet-powered passenger aircraft, the Havilland Comet, on a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) route to London. After Independence, in 1975, the airport opened its first dedicated terminal in India. Since then, this airport has witnessed an exponential growth in passenger flow and cargo movement, providing crucial linkages to the cities in Northeastern and Eastern India, and Southeast Asia. In 2013, the renovated airport was inaugurated by the former president of India, Pranab Mukherjee. At present, the airport provides flights to 35 destinations in India and 13 destinations internationally. Prominent destinations include Hanoi, Ho Chin Minh City and Guangzhou in China.
A Brand New Airport
The newly refurbished integrated terminal combines aesthetics with state-of-the-art facilities and offers passengers a seamless flying experience. It is capable of handling 26 million passengers annually and has witnessed 10% increase in passenger volume in the year 2018-19, with an approximate figure of 2,18,77,350 passengers. The airport comes with the most advanced check-in facilities. It has 128 Check-in counters, providing Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) facilities. Additionally, there are 56 immigration counters, 18 aerobridges, 9 remote boarding gates and 63 parking stands for aircraft.
Movement across the length and breadth of the airport is made easy with 18 escalators, 13 travelletors and 31 elevators. Waiting for your baggage is a thing of the past as the airport offers 16 conveyor belts in the arrival area and 8 at the departure level. Automated in-line baggage screening system is already available for international travellers, while the same is being installed for the domestic area. For winter, when conditions for flight take-offs and landing are often put in jeopardy by fog, the airport has installed the CAT-III system, one of the most sophisticated instrument landing systems presently available in the world, which allows flights to operate till visibility drops to 50m.
The airport has undertaken several new initiatives to make passenger travel smoother. Currently, an Air Traffic Control Tower is under construction. Three hangars with annexe building are also in progress on the Narayanpur side of the airport. There are also talks of a proposed domestic cargo building that will make movement of goods smoother. Further, the currently expanding Metro network will have two lines – one from Noapara and the other from New Garia – connecting directly to the airport.
Promoting Art and Culture
The airport is known to promote local art and culture with a focus to promote Bengal as a premier tourist hub. The roof designs are inspired by the works of the Bengali Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.
On the other hand, three sculptures at the domestic departure, depicting Baul dance and a 3D printed Durga idol at the security hold area, depict quintessential elements of regional culture. On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the airport, in association with Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, established a picture gallery, showcasing 24 panels.
For the Larger Cause
Kolkata airport contributes generously to larger social causes. To renew its commitment towards cleaner energy, Kolkata Airport has incorporated solar powered electricity for the operation of its 2.4 lakh-sq m terminal building.
The airport has also developed a 240 sq. ft. Green Wall at the departure hall and two more at the arrival hall. The airport is also doing its bit to curtail the use of single-use plastic within its premises. Also, it is upgrading its facilities for persons with reduced mobility.