Mumbai’s new domestic terminal [October 2007]

Note: This post was originally set to be published in October 2007. Several of the following posts are finally making it online, after some technical (and other) issues over the last two months.

I don’t frequent Bombay (Mumbai) that often, I haven’t really avoided the city, rather it’s never been high on my priority list. Obviously, the city is on the cutting edge of all that is happening in India, but it was strictly by chance that I flew into Mumbai from the US this [past] October. My original plans had called for a brief stay in Mumbai, and then to fly directly into Hyderabad to attend a class on Venture Capital at the Indian School of Business. Those plans changed, as I was unable to get several meetings setup in Mumbai for the two days before the jaunt down south. So, after arriving into Mumbai International, I decided that I’d quickly hop on a morning flight to Jaipur and join my wife and her family there for a brief stay.

mumbaiSince most international flights arrive into India around or past midnight, and the earliest domestic flights begin to depart around 6.00am, I did what most wary travelers do, I decided to wait it out at the domestic terminal of the Mumbai Airport. This isn’t the best choice, but trying to get to a hotel in the middle of the night for two or three hours of sleep on a bed isn’t usually worth the hassle. Before reaching the new domestic terminal, I was expecting the usual, filthy, run down, quasi-train station style airport that are the hallmarks of India’s socialist past. When I finally made it over to the domestic terminal, I was pleasantly surprised. The new terminal’s check-in lobby (pictured to the left – picture credit Wikipedia) is very spacious and gives one a feeling of what modern travel should become in a growing India.

The new terminal is an interesting place to spend the night. At 2:30am, most domestic terminals, even in the US, have effectively shut down, they go quiet. Here, however, there are so many weary international travelers that have chosen to rough it out at the airport before their domestic flight that Mumbai’s Domestic terminal has a steady stream of activity. Several of the fast food places are still open, including Cafe Coffee Day – one of India’s upscale coffee chains – and there is a smattering of other airport personnel wandering about. The biggest challenge for us ‘overnighters’ is the total lack of adequate seating. Despite this, the initial arrival experience is much better than the old domestic terminal here, and light years ahead of Delhi’s appalling Palam Domestic airport [Delhi’s IGI is so bad that Foreign Policy rates it as one of the five worst airports in the world].

This was a great start for a visit to India in which I would put more miles in the air than anytime in the past. As some subsequent posts will cover, the rest of India’s airports have a long way to go yet.