Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bombay's Airport Grows up - First Thoughts

I had heard a few rumblings about the new international terminal at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Having lived in Bombay for several years a few years ago, I remember the airport being the bane of my travel existence. Dusty, dirty, functionally difficult, it was everything I didn't want in a travel experience.

I am happy to report that things have changed. Here are my first thoughts from landing at Bombay after a red-eye flight from London on BA199: Arriving at BOM was a breeze. Lots of carpeted territory to cover, but miles of moving walkways to assist.  I felt like I was at Delhi's airport, perhaps without the chauvinism and fear of being shot on the highway.  I thought the art and installations were - dare I say - interesting, and this was the first time in my life that Bombay immigration wasn't revolting. That said, the customs bit was still overkill, including the massive "x" marks they scribble in chalk on suitcases they suspect contain an extra few Rupees of goods. Saw a few nice suitcases indelibly marked so.

Parking and airport exit also happened smoothly. Yes, that's right. Smoothly. All in all, though, positive marks for an airport experience I once dreaded. Thankfully, the one hour backup steps away from the airport on the Western Express Highway traversing the ill-placed and poorly-timed construction effort on one of Mumbai major arterial highways reminded me, alas, I was back in Bombay. Unlike the US, however, this was likely sheer incompetence at the highway planning department and a healthy dose of low level corruption than the efforts of a New Jersey Governor Christie wannabe at work. Ahh, Mumbai, there you are!

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