Delhi has two airports. Old all purpose Palam airport has been redesigned and a new terminal building has come up next to old airport building. This new terminal is called Indira Gandhi Internation Airport (IGIA) terminal D. This terminal is meant for low cost airlines flying onto domestic destinations. A few kilometer away, a brand new airport, IGIA terminal 3 or T3, has been built. This terminal is the base of Air India. Mostly international travellers fly from T3.
Recently, I was at the spanking terminal 3 of IGIA. I needed a wheel chair for a relative. Website of T3 indicated that ramp exists for travellers needing wheel chair assistance. Ramps are in lanes 1 and 2 where private vehicles are not allowed to enter. My phone enquiry to contact number provided on the website did not help much. I was bounced around from one phone number to another. Then, I wrote them an e-mail. My e-mail was acknowledged. An e-mail reply came two days after passenger had left. The e-mail response indicated that I have to seek permission at entrance of lane 2 indicating need of wheel chair for traveller.
So I asked someone who had used wheel chair assistance before. I was told that in lane 3 of departure terminal there are pillars marked “wheel chair assistance”. There will be a phone there. One simply has to lift the receiver to get connected and avail wheel chair facility. I was very happy to find the pillar and phone. I picked the phone receiver. It reached a machine that asked “Hindi or English”. This was followed by “INTERNATIONAL or DOMESTIC” travel. Last question was “AIR INDIA or OTHER AIRLINE”. After punching all right buttons, a human voice asked me to come to gate number 1. When I pleaded that my passenger needed assistance and I cannot leave the car unattended as it may be challaned, the line was disconnectd.
I had to crossed two additional lanes meant for cab and VIPs, with my relative in tow, to reach gate one. Once there, we asked a security personnel about wheel chair facility. He pointed to a room nearby where there was airline offices. A bunch of men were huddled around wheel chairs. Two receptionists were dozing. I do not know if anyone of them had attended my call. I got wheel chair assistance we were looking for. I had to do the job the old fashioned way. Why then ask so many fancy questions when I picked the phone. I could have simply directed to report to gate 1. I shudder to think what would happen if my passenger who was totally immobile?
T3 terminal is built with private fund. GMR is the main stake holder in the airport. T3, it is often said, is voted by travellers to be one of the best airports in the world. The airport has food court, shopping area, praying area and many other things that I do not know / care /need. My experience with wheel chair facility was not satisfactory.
Airport or any facility, as modern as it may be, will always be measured by service it offers to passengers in dire situation. How people managing different functions in airport respond to distress call of travellers is an indicator how good an airport is. I think any Indian facility is designed for people who can help themselves. Moment a person is stuck in a jam, the whole system appears to conspire against him. In this matter, it does not matter if the facility is created and/or managed by government or a private operator.