Calcutta, Oct. 27: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will inaugurate Calcutta airport's much-delayed integrated terminal in "end-January", though with inadequate aerobridges.
Five of the 18 aerobridges commissioned arrived from Indonesia yesterday.
"Now that the aerobridges have arrived, the new terminal will be inaugurated in the last week of January. The exact date will be fixed soon but the end-January opening is confirmed," AAI chairman V.P. Agrawal told The Telegraph today.
The AAI, which is executing the Rs 2,300-crore airport modernisation project, has missed four deadlines ' August 2011, December 2011, March 2012 and October 2012.
The five aerobridges, the first lot of the 18 manufactured by Indonesian firm PT Bukaka Teknik Utama, had been loaded onto a ship that left Jakarta on October 15. "The installation of the aerobridges will start next week. We are expecting the remaining 13 to arrive by December," airport director B.P. Sharma said this evening.
The delay in the arrival of the aerobridges was one of the main reasons why the pre-Puja deadline was missed, Agrawal said. "This won't happen again and we will meet our target and present Calcutta a modern airport."
Some aviation experts said 18 aerobridges would be "grossly inadequate" for the modern terminal that aims at catering to 20 million passengers annually. Now, the airport handles around five million passengers every year.
"There is no provision in the design to increase the number of aerobridges. If the authorities are planning to cater to 20 million passengers, there is something wrong (with the plan). Modern airports need a much higher number of aerobridges," an expert said.
Mumbai is preparing to handle 40 million passengers by next year with 72 aerobridges. Delhi's terminal 3, which handles 35 million passengers annually, has 78 aerobridges. The new terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport has 66 aerobridges for a projected annual traffic of 43 million passengers.
"Although 18 aerobridges will make a difference to operations, pressure will build up during peak hours. The number of passengers at Calcutta airport is growing at 10-15 per cent annually and 18 aerobridges will become even more inadequate as traffic increases," a senior airport official said.
According to sources, 90 per cent of passengers at the new terminal will have to use the aerobridges.
Calcutta airport now has four aerobridges, three of them for domestic operations and one for the international terminal. But these can't be used at the new terminal.Airport director Sharma said operations at the new facility would start with "an international airline that operates wide-body aircraft".
Airlines that use wide-body aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 and 777 series and the Airbus 330, include Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and Thai Airways.