Walkalator between Chennai International Airport’s
domestic terminal and the airport Metro station
Walkalator between Chennai International Airport’s domestic terminal and the airport Metro station

‘Metro an excellent option for public to reach airport’

To reach the airport on time, and also avoid the exorbitant cost of cab fares, most passengers have begun taking Metro trains to the airport.

CHENNAI: Making it to the airport on time has barely been a pleasant experience to many passengers. With unexpected traffic congestion and diversions, it’s a stressful journey until you step foot onto the terminal.

To reach the airport on time, and also avoid the exorbitant cost of cab fares, most passengers have begun taking Metro trains to the airport.

Routine passengers speaking to DT NEXT call it the “best and easiest option among all modes of transportation”. As per the data from Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), an average 10,000 passengers on any given day disembark and embark the train at Airport Metro station. Out of that an average of 2,000 passengers go to Chennai airport each day.

B Shebani, a cricketer who frequently commutes through flight for work, is delighted by the Metro service. Set to take her flight abroad today, Shebani said she rarely plans for her commute to the airport anymore. “I take the Metro train to the airport from Teynampet metro station. As it’s a direct line, I do not have to switch lines as well, making it more convenient. I reach the airport in a maximum of 30 minutes,” she smiled.

Cost-effectiveness, efficient operation and travel time are equally important too, she pointed out. “If I take a car to the airport, it’d take me 45 minutes to an hour on a normal day. And longer during peak hours. It’d cost Rs 400-500 for a cab. But on the Metro, it just costs me Rs 50. I can get train timings online and am able to plan and reach the Metro station comfortably. Operations are punctual too,” she explained.

However, Shebani made a few suggestions to the CMRL to make the overall experience more passenger friendly. “Luggage carts must be made available inside the Airport Metro station. Or, provision must be made to avail the cart once I swipe the travel card,” she opines. “There has to be space inside the trains to keep the luggage or at least, place carpeted racks.”

Likewise, Harish Murali, a corporate communication expert, suggested a distinct aesthetic for Airport Metro station, to make it stand out from other stations. “Design the station differently so that foreigners or the public in general are aware that it leads to the airport. Bring the check-in closer to the Metro station,” he said.

Harish also urged the CMRL to set up a lounge at the Airport station for passengers to rest. “Such small but innovative facilities will bring in more crowds,” he added.

A working mother suggested, “Strollers for passengers with toddlers and babies, and wheelchairs must be made available at Metro station so that we can use them until we reach the terminus.”

Subsequently, Anitha Ganesh, a working professional who so far had pleasant experience riding to the airport in Metro, urged better service to passengers carrying heavy luggage. “In May 2021, a passenger was stopped at Egmore Metro station due to their heavy luggage. They had to wait longer until the luggage was thoroughly checked. Facilities should be improved focusing more on such aspects,” Anita stated.

A CMRL official assured better service and said, “The input for placing carts at the station will be taken care of. We’re also working on allocating space for luggage inside the train. All inputs and feedback are accepted, and better service will be assured.”

Unavailability of facial recognition tech at city airport a security risk

While the Airport Authority of India has introduced Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) to reduce the wait time for air passengers at several airports across the country, the Chennai airport doesn’t have it.

Once passengers register their Aadhaar details and photographs in the Digi Yatra mobile app, they don’t need to show ID proof while entering the airport, as the FRT will do its job in identifying their faces.

John, a regular traveller from Chennai, opined that the lack of FRT at the city airport is a security hazard.

“This is one of the important features in any airport since most passengers are in a hurry and security officers, often, don’t check IDs properly. Currently, the technology is used in airports at New Delhi, Bengaluru and Varanasi and from the New Year, it’s being used used in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune and Vijayawada airports,” he added.

Official sources admitted that they’re unsure about FRT’s availability at Chennai airport. “All our focus is on the expansion work that’s going on at an estimated cost of Rs 2,400 crore,” an official said.

Some passengers said that FRT should be available in Chennai airport since air travel between cities is common these days.

“Skipping Chennai airport is not fair. AAI officials here should work on this and make sure FRT is available for Chennai passengers very soon,” one of them stated.

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