Kolkata Soundscapes

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata’s international and major civic airport is named after the Indian patriot Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and is about 17 km away from Kolkata city center. It is controlled by the Airport Authority of India(AAI) Since, Kolkata’s name was Calcutta till 2001, this airport was called CCU Airport or the Dum Dum Airport previously. Today, it is the 5th busiest airport in India, after Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai, having handled 15.8 Million passengers in 2016-17 and the first of the two International Airports in West Bengal, the other being Bagdogra. It serves 31 destinations within the country, as well as numerous internationally, has been awarded the best-improved airport in 2014 and 2015 in the Asia Pacific region by the Airport Council International. Many pioneering flights have passed through here, including that of Amelia Earhart’s in 1937.

Spread over an area of 2460 acres today, the airport began as an open ground next to the Royal Artillery in Dum Dum. It was traditionally used as a stopover for European flights to Indochina and Australia and in 1924, KLM began scheduling a stop for its Amsterdam-Batavia(Jakarta) flight. In the same year, the first runway started being extensively used by the Royal Air Force. Sir Stanley Jackson, the then Governor of Bengal opened the Bengal Flying Club in February 1929 and in 1930, the field was made fit to be used throughout the year for more extensive utilization by other airlines. Air Orient began scheduling a stop as a part of the Paris-Saigon route and soon, Imperial Airways took their London-Australia flights via the airport by 1933. The airport was a major useful recourse for the Allies in the Second World War as in 1942, the 7th bombardment group of the US Army Air Forces flew B-24 Liberator bombers from the airport on combat missions over Burma and was subsequently used as a cargo aerial port for the Air Transport Command and a communication center for the Tenth Air Force.

Soon after the war, Calcutta became a destination for the first jet-powered passenger aircraft, the de Havilland Comet, on a British Overseas Airways Corporation route to London. The airport was then utilized by major airlines like Air France, Japan Airlines, Swissair, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, KLM etc. In 1964, Indian Airlines was the first to introduce an Indian domestic jet service, initially covering the Calcutta-Delhi route. The 1960s saw a major decrease in the number of airlines serving the airport due to the introduction of the long-haul aircraft and Calcutta’s poor political atmosphere. Moreover, The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 resulted in the increase of both refugees and diseases in Calcutta, causing several other airlines to drop their services to the CCU. In 1975, the airport opened the first only-cargo terminal in India. In 1987, Rajiv Gandhi who was an ex-pilot and had a soft corner for the CCU personally initiated a funding of 15 million dollars for the former domestic terminal.

The 1990s saw new growth and the arrival of airlines such as Jet Airways and Sahara made it possible for a new domestic terminal to be opened in 1995, which was renamed in honour of Netaji and in 2000, a new international arrival area was opened. 2005 saw the growth of low-cost carriers with new airlines like IndiGo, Kingfisher, and SpiceJet, which led to a huge passenger increase and overcrowding of the terminals led to the building of an Integrated terminal finally, in. The airport’s new integrated terminal is spread over 233,000 m2 and is equipped to handle 25 million passengers annually, compared to the previous 5 million capacity. It is an L-shaped structure which has 6 levels and has 128 check-in counters, 78 immigration counters, and 12 customer counters. There are passenger lounges by Jet Airways and Air India as well as 18 aerobridges in the terminal and 57 remote parking bays. It is currently the only airport in Eastern India that has two runways.

The old terminals though closed after the integrated terminal was launched, may be used for minor purposes such as low-cost carrier operations and some small regional airlines. Kolkata Airport currently, as the first phase of an expansion plan, is set to increase its customer capacity to 100% that is 40 million annually, and the authorities are planning to connect the old terminals via aerobridges and walkalators and is to be used for boarding and deboarding of passengers who would take the bridge to the new terminal and leave. This would reduce congestion at peak hours. The second phase of the plan which is for the construction of a third terminal at the north has currently received an approval from the Aviation ministry and will hopefully be started soon.