Monday, January 13, 2014

T2: From Where Dreams Will Take Flight!

A few months back, I was travelling to Hyderabad. I was taking an early morning flight from Mumbai's Chhatrapati International Airport. Since our aircraft was parked on a remote parking bay near the international terminal T2, we were ushered into a bus to take us there. 
The bus had a group of American executives from Du Pont - their conversation was so animated and engrossing that I intently eavesdropped on them.
Their conversation centered on India and clearly they were impressed with the new X-shaped Terminal 2 which was under construction. They marvelled at its size and splendour. That made me secretly happy!
Last Friday, the new T2 was unveiled. I had waited for the T2 for long, especially after Delhi got its new integrated terminal T3. While the T3 made me feel proud of India and my home city, Delhi, I cringed at experiencing the Soviet style, musty and bursting at its seams T2 here in Mumbai.
Mumbai certainly deserved something better, for Mumbai is the city that midwifed the birth of Indian aviation with stalwarts like JRD Tata who headed one of the finest airlines of those days, Air-India, out of this city. Air-India had developed Mumbai as hub for traffic into India. Global carriers made Mumbai their port of call in their flights between Australia / South East Asia and Europe.
But things stalled - traffic out of Mumbai stagnated. Mumbai's airport was bursting at its seams. Air-India shifted its headquarters and operational hub to Delhi. When Air-India inducted the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Delhi was chosen over Mumbai as their homebase - that anguished me. Carriers like Qantas, KLM, Aeroflot, Alitalia, Virgin and Austrian Airlines pulled out of Mumbai.
A lousy deal between Jet Airways and Etihad promised the development of Abu Dhabi as a global hub, and not Mumbai (sic!).
The new upcoming carriers  - Tata-SIA and Air Asia India did not choose Mumbai as their hub. The development of classy airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore also sucked traffic away!
Mumbai, it seemed was dying a death as an aviation hub.
However T2, an impressive development, promises to change that all. The terminal not only would help expand capacity but would also showcase India's warmth to the world, to passengers who would transit through Mumbai, with its 3 kilometer long art-wall. 

Development of Mumbai as a hub is what is key - Mumbai is right in the middle of major flight routes of the world and there is no reason why we can't develop Mumbai as a major transit hub like Dubai. Transit passengers would bring in a lot of revenue for the airport - these passengers would spend on food, drink, shopping and the warmth that a terminal would exude would make a difference. That's upto the airport to market itself to carriers.
Then I saw an advertisement in today's newspaper - Air-India is to launch Dreamliner flights from here to Shanghai via Delhi! Wow, I this is a sign that things are changing already.
As for me, I just can't wait to travel to Delhi on this Dreamliner flight from the T2 - it'll be a double first when it happens - a first at T2 and a first on the Dreamliner.

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