Monday, March 24, 2008

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad

Awesome @ first thought, but man would it be costly. (Cant we think of better names ?)

I was extremely apprehensive about reaching the airport on time but the promised half an hour shuttle service was there on time all right ( I waited to 2 buses to pass by), the call center knew exactly the kind of questions that people would ask and responded accordingly.

The logistics: Distance to any part of the city is 20 KM + and would easily take about 1 – 1.5 hours. Bad beginning I would say, for all the planning no one would have imagined that Hyderabad would get rainfall in March. Most people would want to avoid any sort of delay and hence the travel time could range any time from 2.5-3 hrs.

( My mom packed me out about 3.5 hrs before the journey – low cost aircraft airlines dump passengers right? , that gave me ample time to explore the airport. I began writing this at 9:15 PM (my flight was at 9:40), since the flight took off at 12:15 (yeah Deccan), I had more than ample time. Anyway, lets leave my travails apart. )

The architecture: It is beautiful to say the least. Very easily accessible, there was reasonable traffic today (being the end of vacation period) and despite being the first day the staff were able to manage quite well. Need to look up the architect, but the feeling of grandeur and space are clearly there. The demarcation between domestic & international is not quite clear & the information desk is one level lower than where most people would descend. The car park is huge (I did not check the parking charges, but going by rest of the costs it would be pretty steep too). The air-conditioning was excellent and the place was broadly clean (yes, first day impression).

That’s for the good part, now the ugly bit.

1) At a prepaid taxi fare of 600-800 bucks
2) Total commute in absence of proper roads (the Secunderabad-Habsiguda-Uppal X Road – Nagole – Chandrayangutta – Airport) falls apart after Chandrayangutta even on a Sunday. I shudder how much time this route would consume on a working day. Anyway assuming a total commute time of 5 hrs from anywhere worthwhile, the new airport would ensure flying-in and flying-out from the city the same day would rarely make sense anymore. (The reason for all the property coming up around the airport). The roads will get built, should we have waited? I guess not, its impossible to drive change if its not sudden.
3) The services at the airport: No ‘free’ water that I could find. This is what is humongous, the cheapest meal that you can have is for Rs 200 (cup of rice/1 roti +dal ). Coffee inside is 100 bucks + , most of the junta were busy gorging on ice creams because that was the cheapest thing available (yes Gelato @ 50 bucks was the cheapest thing in sight). Cookies at 100 bucks each, onion rings at 120 bucks, almost as if the developers feel that along with international quality we need international prices too!!!
4) With the time/transportation cost et all the other angle to this is the user development fees that is supposed to be charged to the consumer. The idea being that since the consumer is benefiting he must pay for it. As usual, take the last penny from the people who are willing to pay syndrome. In the short run, theoretically the costs should put of some LCC passengers, but that pie is pretty large so there should not be a significant impact
5) What is more important to see is the issue of the ground handling being done (or contracted out) by the developer. Lot of thought goes into the bidding process and each revenue stream would be a reason (and possibly up-front payments from contractors could be one of them) for the IRR’s to accrue to the developers. A lot of players would be watching this with interest, the govt. possibly needs to build in some flexibility in its contracts.

Overall, a step forward. But unless the surrounding issues are quickly solved, we could once again have a case of “well begun is half done”. One thing going for this project is that its extremely difficult to migrate back to the old airport and hence the stakeholders have to hammer out each of the issues. There are no short cuts.

PS: Finally, Whats going to happen to the prime Begumpet Airport Land? And please pardon me for the poor quality of images :)


Shashank said...

I was at the airport yesterday evening, and it looked great. However, guess it has had significant teething troubles, which I hope would get sorted out soon.

In general, the airport is awesome, though the travel time makes it a bit of a dampener :)

Wally said...


Yup, most of the issues should get solved in some time, but its going to be amazing ride till then I guess.

Pathik said...

I was going to ask you about the new airport after I read about it on rediff and here you have said it!