Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Sham called Shamshabad Airport

After a great euphoria over the "International" airport at a place called Shamshabad in Andhra, I was eager to see how the place looks like, when I accidentally ended up there for a transit flight. Knowing the taste of "hype"-loving AP politicians, I was in my true spirits looking forward to some nonsense there. But what disapointed me the most was the names that got mixed in this thing like Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airport Authority etc.
Considering all International airports in India, Hyderabad was the only place, where pickpockets masqurade as Customs or Immigration officials.
  • Imagine someone with an Indian passport at the Immigration counter on his return being asked "Where is your visa?". The simple fundamental right of a citizen is "Right of Entry" into his country, unless of course, he/she is "wanted".
  • Many times on the same evening, while waiting for ur baggage to appear, a guy in White uniform approaches asking "Yaabhai dollar ivvu" (Give me 50 Dollars).
Anyways, there was a huge fanfare, when the airport was inagurated. Some chaos, some uncertainity, what not...
But the point however is, when all the APites give out a list of all the great things about this airport, my question is - do they really understand what an international airport is all about? (The longest runway, biggest airport of Asia, pride of AP, what not... )
May be, these folks need to really make an international trip to Singapore or KL, to get a first hand feel of an international airport, rather than pay INR 700 to enter this place in Hyderabad.
  1. Where are the signs that take you to restrooms (toilets - the best way to judge any public amenity, there are only two in the entire lounge, but where is the display board???)
  2. Why is it that the rest room smells similar to a restroom in Bihar railway station?
  3. Why no coffee counter in the entire lounge? Unless a person goes through the security check area, there is no way he/she can get something to eat or drink, save the useless coke vending machine.
  4. Why no proper accoustics to inform flight arrival or departure? It sounds as if someone is in a deep well and grumbling.
  5. Where are the directions to the internation aminities??? No cybercafe, no wi-fi, no recliner chairs, no currency converters... (See am not talking of security hold area where one hardly spends time. I am talking of the lounge, where one needs to wait in between two flights, if there is a gap of more than three hours. You cannot check in, as it only starts 3 hrs before scheduled departure time, nor you can go out as it is away from city and has miles of wilderness around)
  6. If this insult is the biggest airport, why only six (6) aprons? Even the most worthless International airport of Charles deGuall in Paris has around 50/60 aero-bridges and can handle around 120 flights per hour!
  7. Why are the ground staff ill-informed of everything and always give a response like "we dont know!"
Anyways, it seems media has done a good job of brainwashing all Andhrities into believing that this airport will make a mark on the world map!!!
The truth is
  1. Many people lost out, due to the bubble in the land prices around this airport - mostly the working class.
  2. Many NRIs (the neo-rich, IT types) bought the shares of the GMR consortium - only to lose out. The price per share was INR 260 before the airport was launched, now it is around INR 160.
  3. No one knows, how many kickbacks, how much of cost projected actually went into this airport.

At the end of the day, I know the stock answer - there is lot more to be done, this is just the begining.