Jan 20 unveil date for terminal minus flights

The new integrated terminal of the airport will finally be opened on January 20 after four missed deadlines but passengers will have to wait at least two more months to take a flight out of it.

The Calcutta airport authorities announced on Thursday that "full-fledged operations" from the integrated terminal will start from end-March.

Metro had highlighted more than once how delay in setting up infrastructure would come in the way of the new terminal becoming operational in January.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI), which is executing the Rs 2,300-crore airport modernisation project that includes the setting up of the integrated terminal, had initially planned to unveil the facility in August 2011. It has missed three more deadlines since ' December 2011, March 2012 and October 2012.

"The new terminal will be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on January 20. But full-fledged operations will start exactly after two months," Saugata Roy, Trinamul MP from Dum Dum and chairman of the airport facilitators' committee, said on Thursday after reviewing the modernisation project.

The authorities have planned to shift international airlines to the new terminal first, to be followed by domestic ones. "The shifting will be done in phases and so it'll take time," airport director B.P. Sharma said.

He said professional private agencies were hired to set up several facilities at the new terminal, including common check-in and baggage handling systems.

The operations of around 70 per cent of the airlines flying to or from the city are synchronised with the new check-in software but that's hardly enough to prevent chaos during rush hours as operators are yet to be allowed to conduct test runs simultaneously.

"Each airline has been asked to do test runs for the check-in system. However, if all airlines are not allowed to do test runs together, it's not possible to know whether the system is capable of taking the pressure of handling several flights simultaneously," said an official.

Departure baggage handling trial is yet to be conducted. According to officials, departure baggage handling is more critical than handling arrival baggage. "A lot of synchronisation is required. Baggage distribution will go haywire, resulting in passenger inconvenience, if the departure baggage handling system doesn't work properly," said an official.

Among the key areas of concern for international airlines are business class lounges and duty-free stores, which are yet to be ready.

The authorities said they would hire private agencies for cleaning, upkeep and trolley handling at the new terminal. "We are hiring 12 private agencies for various operations, including cleaning and maintenance," said airport director Sharma.

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