Chennai International Airport

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Chennai International Airport
Madras Airport
MAA is located in India airports
Location of Chennai Airport in India
Airport typePublic
OwnerGovernment of India
OperatorAirports Authority of India
ServesChennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur,Vellore districts
LocationTirusulam, Kanchipuram district, India
Hub for
Elevation AMSL52 ft / 16 m
Coordinates12°58′56″N 80°9′49″E / 12.98222°N 80.16361°E / 12.98222; 80.16361Coordinates: 12°58′56″N 80°9′49″E / 12.98222°N 80.16361°E / 12.98222; 80.16361
WebsiteChennai Airport
Statistics (Apr '13 – Mar '14)
Passenger movements12,896,055
Aircraft movements121,817
Cargo tonnage292,080
Source: AAI[1][2][3]
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Chennai International Airport
Madras Airport
MAA is located in India airports
Location of Chennai Airport in India
Airport typePublic
OwnerGovernment of India
OperatorAirports Authority of India
ServesChennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur,Vellore districts
LocationTirusulam, Kanchipuram district, India
Hub for
Elevation AMSL52 ft / 16 m
Coordinates12°58′56″N 80°9′49″E / 12.98222°N 80.16361°E / 12.98222; 80.16361Coordinates: 12°58′56″N 80°9′49″E / 12.98222°N 80.16361°E / 12.98222; 80.16361
WebsiteChennai Airport
Statistics (Apr '13 – Mar '14)
Passenger movements12,896,055
Aircraft movements121,817
Cargo tonnage292,080
Source: AAI[1][2][3]
The old terminal (1945) at Meenambakkam

Chennai International Airport formerly, Madras Airport (IATA: MAAICAO: VOMM) is the primary airport serving the southern Indian metropolis of Chennai. It is the third busiest airport in India in terms of passenger traffic. The airport is spread across the suburban areas of Meenambakkam, Pallavaram and Tirusulam with passenger entry at Tirusulam and cargo entry at Meenambakkam. The IATA code MAA for the airport is derived from the former name of Chennai, Madras. The domestic and the international terminals are named after former chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, K. Kamaraj and C. N. Annadurai respectively. It is the first airport in India to have international and domestic terminals adjacent to each other.[4] The airport is the regional headquarters of the Airports Authority of India for the southern region of India comprising the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala and the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep.[5] As of 2012, the airport handles 13.5 million passengers annually and about 325 aircraft movements a day. The airport is expected to reach saturation by 2016–17, necessitating the construction of a second international airport.[6]


Giacomo D'Angelis


The aviation history of the city began in 1910, when a city-based Corsican hotelier Giacomo D'Angelis built an aircraft and tested it.[7] Inspired by Louis Blériot, a Frenchman who was the first to fly across the English Channel in July 1909,[7][8] D'Angelis collaborated with Simpson's, a leading coach-builder in the city, to build a biplane.[9] The biplane was built entirely from D'Angelis's own designs, fitted with a small horse-power engine. Samuel John Green, a motor engineer at Simpson's, helped with the manufacture and assembly of the biplane.[7] On 10 March 1910, D'Angelis tested the aircraft in the suburb of Pallavaram, making it the first flight ever in Asia.[10] While demonstrating it to the public during the ticketed show, he even took a person from the crowd on the aircraft as his passenger.[9] Immediately, he also arranged a public viewing at the Island Grounds, charging entrance fees for the demonstration.[7]

Giacomo D'Angelis and his biplane in 1910, the first flight ever in Asia

One more test flight was conducted at the Island Grounds in 1914, when J. W. Madley, a water works engineer, tested an aircraft assembled by him. He flew it over the Red Hills reservoir to inspect works and shot a couple of aerial photographs of the reservoir from the aircraft.[9] This incident kindled an interest in flying among prominent residents of the city, resulting in the arrival of a set of aviators in 1911 to display the flying machines they had brought with them to India as a marketing initiative.[9] The aviators included Baron de Caters and Jules Tyck.[11] On 15 February 1911, Tyck flew in a Bleriot aeroplane in front of the public. The aircraft was wheeled out by eight men with Tyck seated inside the craft wearing an oilskin coat and goggles. The men held the plane till its engine revved up and then let go, and the craft darted forward about 20 yards before rising into the air. In the air, the craft made a straight flight only for about three-quarters of the length of the ground and descended due to poor weather.[9] Tyck flew again the next day, this time reaching a height of 2,400 feet, which was witnessed by the then Governor of Madras Sir Arthur Lawley.[9] Two days later, on 18 February, another demonstration was given by Baron de Caters, when he flew his aircraft in public.[11]

The history of civil aviation in India began in December 1912, with the opening of the first domestic air route between Karachi and Delhi by the Indian state Air services in collaboration with the Imperial Airways, United Kingdom. However, it was just an extension of London–Karachi flight of the Imperial Airways. In 1915, the first Indian airline, Tata Sons Ltd, started a regular airmail service between Karachi and Madras without any patronage from the government, marking the beginning of air transportation in the southern part of India.[12]

Night view of the old terminal of Chennai airport in 2007 (before modernisation)

In March 1930, a discussion initiated by pilot G. Vlasto led to the founding of Madras Flying Club, which became a pioneer in South India.[8][9] The club had 71 founding members, of whom 14 were Indians. Flt. Lt. H. N. Hawker became the club's first flight instructor.[8] The club's first Indian chief pilot instructor, Mohammed Ismail Khan, trained several pilots, some of whom were trained professionally or others simply for fun.[8] Among those who trained for hobby included S. A. A. Annamalai Chettiar, who had a pilot licence from the United Kingdom, Auvadaiappan, and Solayappan.[8] When the state council of Ceylon built an aerodrome at Ratnamala near Colombo in 1935, the first flight to land there was flown by chief flying instructor of the club Tyndale Biscoe. On 26 October 1936, Captain V. Sundaram, who got the first commercial pilot licence, flew a De Havilland Dove aircraft from Karachi to Madras.[9]

On 15 October 1932, when J. R. D. Tata, founder of Tata Sons Ltd., flew a single-engined De Havilland Puss Moth carrying air mail (postal mail of Imperial Airways) from Karachi's Drigh Road Aerodrome to Bombay's Juhu Airstrip via Ahmedabad, the flight was continued to Madras via Bellary piloted by aviator Nevill Vintcent.[13]


Madras (Chennai) had one of the first airports in India and was the final destination of Air India's first flight from Bombay (Mumbai) via Belgaum in 1954.[14] The airport was built on land donated by the former governor of Madras Presidency, L. Sriramulu Naidu.[14] Although the first aircraft "Puss Moth" landed in Chennai Airport in 1932, the usage was confined only to military operations during World War II.[15] In 1952, the Civil Aviation Department took over its operations followed by the IAAI in 1972.

An air cargo complex was commissioned on 1 February 1978 for processing of import, export, and transshipment cargo, in addition to unaccompanied luggage,[16] which is the second gateway air cargo terminal in the country after the one at Kolkata airport.[17] The first passenger terminal was built at the northeast side of the airfield, which lies in the suburb of Meenambakkam due to which it was referred to as Meenambakkam Airport. A new terminal complex was subsequently built at Tirusulam, further south near Pallavaram to which, passenger operations were shifted. The new domestic terminal was commissioned in 1985 and the international terminal was commissioned in 1989. The old terminal building is now used as a cargo terminal and is the base for the Indian courier company Blue Dart.[15] On 23 September 1999, a centre for flowers, fruits and vegetables was commissioned at the cargo terminal.[16] The new international departure terminal was commissioned in 2003.[15]

In 2001, Chennai Airport became the first international airport in the country to receive ISO 9001-2000 certification.[4][18][19] In 2008, the AAI started major modernisation of the airport.[20]


Chennai airport as seen from above

Chennai airport is the regional headquarters of the Airports Authority of India for the southern region of India comprising the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala and the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep. It functions from the ATS Complex within the airport and has 49 airports under its control, including 19 operational AAI airports, 5 operational private/joint venture airports, 5 non-operational airports, 12 military airports, and 8 disused airfields. These include 6 international airports, 15 domestic airports, and 3 customs airports.[21]

Chennai airport is the centre of the southern flight information region (FIR), one of the four FIRs that the Indian air space is divided into. The regional executive director (RED) is responsible for the air traffic services over the Chennai FIR and airport management on ground at the airports in South India. The Chennai FIR includes terrestrial air space above the four southern states and two southern union territories and the oceanic air space of the southern part of the Bay of Bengal and the eastern part of the Arabian Sea. Coordination with the neighbouring national FIRs of Kolkata and Mumbai and with the neighbouring international FIRs of Sri Lanka, Kuala Lampur, and Yangon for air traffic control purposes are being made with telecommunication links (both voice and data).

The immigration services at the airport and the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), which is the office of the field officers in charge of immigration and registration activities in the city located at Shastri Bhavan at Haddows Road, are handled by the Bureau of Immigration.[22]

Layout and infrastructure[edit]

New Domestic Terminal

Spread over an area of 1,283 acres (519 ha),[23] Chennai International Airport consists of three terminals: The old terminal at Meenambakkam is used for cargo, while the new passenger terminal complex at Tirusulam is used for passenger operations. The passenger terminal complex consists of the domestic and international terminals interconnected by a link building, which houses administrative offices and a restaurant.[14] Although the complex is one continuous structure, it was built incrementally, with the Kamaraj and Anna terminals being added in 1988 to the pre-existing Meenambakkam terminal.

The first part to be built was the international terminal which had two aerobridges (jetways), followed by the domestic terminal with three aerobridges. After the completion of the domestic terminal, the old terminal at Meenambakkam was used exclusively for cargo. Recently the international terminal was extended further south by adding a new block which includes three aerobridges. At present, the new international block is used for departures while the older building is used for arrivals.

The international and the domestic terminals cover an area of 1.5 km2 and 1.8 km2, respectively. The airport is divided into two circles, with five zones each, for administrative conveniences.[24] Around 550 acres of the airport premises fall within the St. Thomas Mount and Pallavaram Cantonment Board's limits. The rest of the area comes under the Meenambakkam town panchayat's jurisdiction.[25] The Kamaraj (domestic) terminal has an area of 19,250 m2 (207,200 sq ft) with 48 check-in counters and handles 4.74 million passengers a year.[citation needed] The Anna (International) terminal has an area of 42,870 m2 (461,400 sq ft) with 45 check-in counters, 38 immigration counters, including 16 at the departure terminal and 22 at the arrival terminal, and 18 customs counter, including 2 at the departure terminal and 16 at the arrival terminal.[26] There are four entry gates at the airport, two each at both the terminals. There are 5 x-ray baggage facilities at the domestic terminal, including 3 provided by the AAI and one each by Air India and Jet Airways. X-ray baggage facility at the international terminal include 2 provided by the AAI.[27] The total area of retail space at the existing domestic and international terminals is 3,250 sq m, comprising 60 concessions including duty-free, retail shops, restaurants, snack bars and executive lounges.[28] The Anna international terminal has 6 boarding gates on the first floor. The Kamraj domestic terminal has a total of 9 boarding gates, including 6 on the ground floor and 3 on the first floor.[26]

The airport currently has 70 parking bays, one of which can accommodate the superjumbo Airbus A380.[23] Parking bays at the domestic terminal include one in-contact bay for Airbus A300-sized aircraft, nine in-contact bays for Airbus A320/Boeing 737-sized aircraft, and 49 remote bays for A320/737-sized aircraft. Parking bays at the international terminal include seven in-contact bays for Boeing 747-sized aircraft, 13 remote bays for 747-sized aircraft, one remote bay for an A380 aircraft, and three cargo bays for 747-sized aircraft.[26] Works on the 24 new night parking bays had been completed in the apron area. With the new parking bays, the Chennai airport would have 81 parking bays.[29] Chennai airport is the first airport in India to have aerobridges at the domestic terminal.[4]

Cargo complex[edit]

The Air Cargo Complex at the Chennai airport was established in 1978, when all regulatory and facilitating agencies were brought under one roof for faster processing/clearance of international cargo, to cater for air cargo movement in the southern region. At the cargo terminal, AAI functions as ground handling agency for airlines for handling or processing their cargo on ground and acts as custodian on behalf of customs import/export cargo under the customs act of 1962. Spread over an area of 19.5 acres, the complex uses cargo-handling equipments such as elevated transfer vehicle, forklifts, high-mast stackers, and power hydraulic pallet trucks for handling cargo.[16] The covered area of the export wing of the complex is 20,595 sq m while that of the import wing is 20,090 sq m.[30] The existing covered area of cargo terminal in occupation of AAI is 37,085 sq m.[16] There are three ETV buildup/working stations and 18 manual buildup ETV loading positions at the complex.[30]

The cargo complex consists of two divisions, namely, the export and the import facilities. The export facility covers an area of 16,366 sq m and the import facility covers 16,500 sq m.[31] The complex has an exclusive cargo apron which can accommodate three wide-bodied aircraft with ULD parking area and hydrant-refueling facility at the bay.[30] The Customs department has appointed AAI and AI as the custodian at the complex. The import cargo of all the airlines is solely handled by AAI. The export cargo, on the other hand, is handled by AAI in respect of airlines handled by it while those of the rest of the airlines are handled by AI.[16]

Export area
Ground floor area5,200 sq m
First floor area (office)2,295 sq m
Truck dock position/area14 trucks (865 sq m)
Examination area770 sq m
Bonded area2,270 sq m
Import area
Total area20,090 sq m

The available capacity and cargo handled at the terminal are listed below:

AreaAnnual capacity (Tonnes)Annual tonnage (Tonnes)
Export General265,000160,000

The existing capacity of the air cargo complex is expected to meet the requirement till 2020. Phase III and IV of the new integrated cargo terminal with latest automated storage and retrieval system is under construction, enhancing the area from 35,920 sq m to 54,620 sq m.

The upcoming import cargo storage and processing facility would have a capacity to handle almost 800,000 tonnes of cargo annually from the existing 150,000 tonnes. The new complex will have an area of 58,000 sq m against the current area of 26,000 sq m. The conventional way of warehouse management will be replaced by automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) The ASRS would have over 8,000 storage bins and each bin would have a capacity to store 1.3 to 1.5 tonnes of cargo in it. Apart from ASRS, the upcoming facilities would also have multiple temperature-controlled cold storages for perishable cargo,[32] with three chambers at 0 to 12 °C covering a total area of 445 sq m.[33] There would be three fully secured strong rooms for storage and processing of high value cargo, such as gems, jewellery, gold and silver, both in export and import together. The new facility would also have dedicated isolated storage locations for handling dangerous and hazardous cargo.[32]

In 2009, an integrated cargo complex was planned in the cargo complex of the airport. The complex would be constructed, at a cost of INR1,450 million, in 15 months. While the ground floor would measure 21,000 sq m, the first floor would be built on 12,100 sq m. The new building would be used exclusively for import activities. Once the civil works were completed, the ASRS would be installed. It would cost INR750 million.[34]

Air traffic control tower[edit]

Chennai is the home to India's biggest air traffic control (ATC) centre.[35] The ATC tower is located at the Air Traffic Services Complex. There are two radars in Chennai—the mono-pulse secondary surveillance radar at Porur and the Chennai Westing House (terminal) radar.[36] Advance surface movement guidance and control system has been introduced in the ATC tower.[37]

As a first step towards integrating the entire airspace in the country, the automation system at the ATC in Chennai Airport was commissioned on 1 October 2011. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has invested INR420 million for the Chennai automation system, which runs on Auto Track 3+, a sophisticated air traffic control automation system supplied and installed by US-based Raytheon.[36][38] A new route radar at Porur has also been installed and the 13-year-old terminal radar at the airport will be replaced. With the automation system in place, all information regarding tower control, approach control, area control and oceanic control would be exchanged electronically in Chennai. It would ensure reliability, thereby enhancing safety of aircraft and passengers.[39][40][41]

Chennai is among the four flight information centres in the country besides Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, and the Chennai ATC has Hyderabad, Mangalore, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore under its control. Besides the two radars in Chennai, radar systems in Mangalore, Bangalore, Bangalore HAL, Shamshabad (Hyderabad), Bellary and Thiruvananthapuram are included in the new system.[42] With the advanced integrated radar technology, ATC in Chennai now has the entire South Indian region on its radar screens, mainly co-ordinating flight movements above 26,000 to 46,000 ft.[36]

Following the Performance-Based Navigation system (PBN) and the air traffic control automation, in 2011, the AAI initiated a pilot project on a Ground-Based Augmentation System (GBAS), as part of implementing Gagan (Geo Augmented Navigation) in the country. There will be a set of 3–4 GPS satellites, one geo-synchronous satellite, GPS receivers at end of the runways, a ground station and a VHF data broadcast system. When the pilot project starts, Chennai airport will be the first airport in the country to have the facility.[43]


Check-in Area

Chennai airport has two runways—the 3,658 m (12,001 ft) long primary runway No. 07/25 (east-northeast–west-southwest orientation) and the 2,925 m (9,596 ft) long secondary runway No. 12/30. Approach lights include CAT-1 category at runway 07 and CAT-1 type at runway 25 for 510 m. PAPI-type landing aids are available in all the runways.[26] Routine maintenance works of the primary runway are carried out twice a week—between 2.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays.[44]

Chennai airport does not have rapid exit taxiways that help pilots to vacate a runway without slowing down the aircraft soon after landing. Planes such as the Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-800 will have to slow down completely to negotiate sharp turns on the taxiway. In 2011, AAI began work on upgrading the existing taxiways and parking bays at the airport to handle these jumbo planes.[45]

The secondary runway, which was initially 2,035-m long, was closed in 2009 to extend it over the Adyar river by means of a bridge over the watercourse at a cost of INR4,300 million. Initially, 126.59 acres of land for second runway was handed over to Airports Authority of India (AAI). In March 2011, by acquiring 136 acres of land from the state government, AAI completed extension of the 2,035-m secondary runway by 1,400 m,[46] whose commissioning, initially planned to be by November 2011, has been delayed as the approach lighting system has not been installed.[47] While the cost of extending the runway was projected to be about INR2,400 million, that of the bridge is almost INR2,300 million.[23] A bridge has been constructed across the Adyar river to extend the secondary runway by a length of 1,400 m to a total length of 3,445 m, including 835 m on the northern side of the river.[48] The bridge accommodates the runway and a taxiway, making Chennai Airport the only international airport in India to have a runway across a river.[49][50] In Mumbai, only an end of the runway is over Mithi river. When the Airports Authority of India (AAI) recommissions the secondary runway, Chennai airport will join the league of airports with a functional runway across a river, namely, the Atlanta, Brooklyn and Madeira Island airports.[44]

With the second airport near Sriperumbudur under consideration, the project for a parallel runway has been put on hold and the total land required for the airport expansion reduced from 1069.99 acres to 800 acres.[51]

The AAI has made it clear that without the removal of obstructions like houses, water tanks and trees, it cannot open the full-portion of the secondary runway. Also, with metro rail works also expected to begin at the airport stretch, the full use of the secondary runway is not possible. It is planning to operate 2,400 m even after all the obstructions are removed and proper security arrangements made for the bridge over the river. About 2,085 m of the runway was earlier used for landing only smaller aircraft, like ATR types.[52]

In February 2012, airport authorities announced that only about 2,160 m of the secondary runway would be operationalised as there will be 330 m permanent displacement at GST road side and 780 m displacement at the other end. This restricted length would be enough to operate Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft without load penalty.[53] Bad planning by the airport authorities, which has resulted in the removal of the very-high-frequency omni range equipment (VOR) from its original location where a link way has been constructed between the main and the secondary runways, has been considered the reason behind the delay.[54]


As of 2012, Chennai airport has less than 50 percent of the total sanctioned immigration, customs and security officers. The airport needs about 300 immigration officers. However, it suffers from an acute staff shortage and has only 70 immigration staff.[55]


As of 2011, the annual capacity of the domestic terminal is 6 million passengers, but more than 7 million use it. The airport saw a 9.4 percent increase in passenger movement—from 6.83 million to 7.48 million—between April and October 2011 over the corresponding period in the past year.[47] Currently, the airport handles about 325 aircraft movements a day.[28] During 2010–11, passenger traffic rose 14 percent to 12.05 million and the total number of passengers is expected to touch 13.1 million (a 9-percent increase) in 2012, including 8.6 million in the domestic and 4.5 million in the international terminals.[56]

Chennai airport is the main gateway for the air cargo traffic from the southern region of India which caters to the requirement of Far-East regions, the Europe and the United States, and recently African destinations such as Ethiopia and Nigeria. Cargo handled at Chennai airport included electronic goods, engineering goods, and auto components apart from the traditional leather products and textiles.[32] The airport handled 300,000 tonnes of international cargo and 93,000 tonnes of domestic cargo in 2010–11.[57] This included 160,000 tonnes of export and 140,000 tonnes of import, with a growth of 20 percent.[32] The revenue in 2010–11 was INR6,440 million and it is expected to increase to INR6,680 million in 2011–12.[58]

As of 2012, there are 52 scheduled airline operators, including 33 international and 19 domestic operators, and 57 non-scheduled operators, including 23 international and 34 domestic operators, operating services from Chennai airport, the highest in the southern region.[21] As of February 2012, 36 freighters operate out of Chennai airport.[59]

Traffic Volume at Chennai Airport[60]
YearPassengers handledAircraft handledCargo volume (tonnes)Mail (tonnes)
Tonnage of cargo handled at the air cargo complex at Chennai Airport[61]
 % Change over
previous year
 % Change over
previous year
 % Change over
previous year
Busiest international routes from Chennai Airport (2010–2011)[62]
RankAirportPassengersFreight (tonnes)
1Dubai, United Arab Emirates894,76049,973
3Colombo, Sri Lanka642,94613,452
4Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia473,07829,921
5Frankfurt, Germany274,12741,469
6Riyadh, Saudi Arabia250,05824,028
7Bangkok, Thailand222,93119,765
8London, Great Britain186,0154,841
9Doha, Qatar160,93225,558
10Muscat, Oman147,2385,987
11Sharjah, United Arab Emirates132,9183,059
12Hong Kong126,40045,193
13Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates114,58311,679
14Brussels, Belgium94,2385,812
17Jeddah, Saudi Arabia41,1221,608
18Dammam, Saudi Arabia38,742315
19New York, United States38,610900
Busiest international routes from Chennai Airport (2011–2012)[63]
RankAirportPassengersFreight (tonnes)
2Colombo, Sri Lanka809,1598582.46381
3Dubai, United Arab Emirates746,53428844.391
4Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates300,04615152.566
5Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia267,3738633.622
6Doha, Qatar200,30821099.781
7Frankfurt, Germany159,04122056.718
8Muscat, Oman156,415886.22
9Bangkok, Thailand141,7959006.542
10London, United Kingdom108,2658260.270
11Sharjah, United Arab Emirates107,9182172.728
12Brussels, Belgium101,0105332.817
14Hong Kong85,91831112.065
16Riyadh, Saudi Arabia54,5781002.199
17Jeddah, Saudi Arabia45,6641258.934
18New York, United States34,468991.884
19Dammam, Saudi Arabia17,30249.349
20Paris, France14,8273.191

Terminals, airlines and destinations[edit]

Modernisation and expansion of terminals[edit]

The airport was modernised and expanded in 2012, with the construction of a new domestic terminal, the expansion and renovation of the existing international terminal, the renovation of the existing domestic terminal, the extension of the secondary runway and the creation of a parallel runway, taxiways, aprons, parking bays and cargo terminal. The new terminal spread across 72,000 m2 (780,000 sq ft) has 72 passenger check-in counters. However, the plan for the parallel runway has been dropped.[64]

The original plan to build a three-basement-level car parking for about 1,500 vehicles with about 8,000 sq m of commercial area on the open ground opposite the new domestic terminal building has been deferred temporarily. Instead, a surface-level parking to accommodate 400 vehicles has been planned at a cost of INR44.2 million.[65]

The proposed Chennai Metro Rail Project will connect the airport to various parts of the city. Tentatively, the project is programmed for completion in the financial year 2013–2014.[66]

New passenger terminals[edit]

Baggage pick-up area at the airport

The current development projects include construction of a new domestic terminal and expansion of the current international terminal. The design is a collaborative effort of team lead involving Frederic Schwartz Architects, Gensler, and led by New Delhi-based Creative Group. Creative Group is the principal architect for the project providing comprehensive architecture and engineering consultancy for the design of the passengers terminal buildings, parking garage structures and access roadway access system. The proposed design, based on Gensler's Terminal 2015 concept, will be connected with the existing terminal design elements. It was earlier reported that the new terminal buildings will have a handling capacity of 10 million passengers and when integrated with existing terminals will provide for a handling capacity of 23 million passengers a year. The new terminal buildings are expected to have an area of about 1,40,000 m² with 104 check-in counters, 16 aerobridge and 60 immigration counters and the two runways would be interconnected by a network of taxiways. The terminal complex will have a flyover travelator connecting the domestic and international terminals for a distance of about 1 km. It will have an elevated road on the top and a tube below which will have two walkalators.[67] The 600-m long walkalator belt will be installed at a cost of INR260 million.[68]


The design details of the runways are handled by the Airports Authority of India, while architecture firms are limited to designing buildings on the land side of the runway. The present proposal is parallel to the existing runway. The entire design as being organised around "two lush sustainable gardens" and the wing-like roofs helps collect rainwater and become part of the garden.[69]

The domestic terminal building currently measures 139,931 sq ft (13,000.0 m2) and handles 4.74 million passengers a year. The revamped design of the domestic terminal building will accommodate twice as many passengers in a three-story structure 984 ft long. The new design, based on the organisation of security and passenger circulation, centres around two lush, ecologically sustainable gardens each measuring nearly an acre and includes a parking garage with a green roof over 300 m long and rainwater capture systems collectively known as the "green gate" of the terminal. Expansive glass curtain walls will be incorporated to boost the feeling of airiness and spaciousness, as will skylights.[70] The new terminal will have three levels. The departure area will be featured on the top level with the arrivals section on ground level. The arrivals section will form the base for airlines and other offices with the basement reserved for luggage scanners. The domestic terminal covers 67,700 sq m and will also have a provision of seven gates, two hardstand hold rooms and 52 check-in counters, besides eight counters for e-ticketing. The international terminal will cover 59,300 sq m with the provision of two gates with multiple hardstand hold rooms, 52 check-in counters, eight counters for e-ticketing, 18/10 immigration/Custom counters for handling passenger arrival and 18/4 immigration/Custom counters for outgoing passengers. Both the terminals will be equipped with an inline baggage handling system capable of Level 4 security screening system. This system consists of four departure conveyors of a total length of 3500 m and can handle 1,200 baggages per hour.[71]

The new terminal buildings measure more than 140,000 m2 (1,500,000 sq ft). The new terminals buildings are expected to cater to 14 million more passengers per annum, including 4 million per annum at the international terminals. With the existing terminals handling 9 million, the airport will be able to handle 23 million passengers per annum after the integration[72] with 16 million in domestic and 7 million in the international terminal.[71] After expansion, the aircraft movements in the airport is likely to increase at the rate of 5 to 7 percent. By 2020–21, the airport is expected to handle 500 movements a day.[28] The new terminals are expected to clock between 72 and 75 green points of the total 100 for integrated inhabited assessment. The AAI has divided the building for landside and airside operations. The spaces are connected with a central security checkpoint for departure and there is a glass bridge on each side of the building for arriving passengers. On the roadside, the new terminals are connected with an elevated corridor, which will have approach and exit ramps.[72] The power requirement at the expanded airport is around 110 kVa – more than three times the current needs.[73] A new 11,000-KV sub-station has been built by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) at the airport to serve the terminals, for which the power has been sourced from Kadapperi near Tambaram.[74] The retail space earmarked in the new international and domestic terminals is about 9,000 sq m, nearly thrice as much as the existing one.[28]

Accidents and Controversies

In recent months, there were 5 reported incidents of ceiling collapses possibly due to the poor quality of work during the recent modernisation of the airport terminals. The first incident happened on 13 May 2013 when 20 panels caved in near the security hold area due to heavy winds, followed by another incident on 11 August when 23 panels behind the check-in counters at the terminal crashed due to heavy condensation. The last reported incident happened on 2 October 2013.[75]

Passenger airlines[edit]

Domestic flights operate from the Kamaraj Terminal, while the Anna Terminal is for international flights. The old terminal at Meenambakkam is used for Cargo Operations.

Lufthansa cargo and World airways cargo McDonnell Douglas MD-11Fs at Chennai Airport
Air ArabiaSharjahAnna
AirAsiaKuala LumpurAnna
AirAsia IndiaBangaloreKamaraj
Air AustralBangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Saint-Denis de la RéunionAnna
Air CostaAhmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Madurai , Vijayawada, VisakhapatnamKamaraj
Air IndiaColombo, Dubai-International, Kuwait, Malé, Muscat, Sharjah, SingaporeAnna
Air IndiaAhmedabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Madurai, Mumbai, Port Blair, ThiruvananthapuramKamaraj
Air India ExpressColombo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, TiruchirapalliAnna
Air India RegionalAgatti, BangaloreKamaraj
Air MauritiusMauritiusAnna
British AirwaysLondon-HeathrowAnna
Cathay PacificHong KongAnna
Etihad AirwaysAbu DhabiAnna
GoAirMumbai, Patna, Pune, RanchiKamaraj
Gulf AirBahrainAnna
IndiGoDubai, SingaporeAnna
IndiGoAhmedabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Raipur, Thiruvananthapuram, VisakhapatnamKamaraj
Jet AirwaysAbu Dhabi, Dammam, SingaporeAnna
Jet AirwaysAmritsar, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Port Blair, VadodaraKamaraj
JetKonnectAhmedabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Madurai, Mangalore, Mumbai, Raipur, Thiruvananthapuram, TiruchirapalliKamaraj
Kuwait AirwaysKuwaitAnna
Malaysia AirlinesKuala LumpurAnna
MaldivianDhaka, MaléAnna
Oman AirMuscatAnna
Qatar AirwaysDohaAnna
SaudiaDammam, Jeddah, RiyadhAnna
Singapore AirlinesSingaporeAnna
SpiceJetAhmedabad, Bagdogra, Belgaum, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Hubli, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Madurai, Mangalore, Mumbai, Mysore, Port Blair, Pune, Surat, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirapalli, Tuticorin, Vijayawada, VisakhapatnamKamaraj
Sri Lankan AirlinesColombo, HambantotaAnna
Thai AirAsiaBangkok-Don MueangAnna
Thai Airways InternationalBangkok-SuvarnabhumiAnna

Cargo airlines[edit]

Jade Cargo's Boeing 747-400F departing from Chennai Airport
Blue Dart AviationBangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai
Cathay Pacific CargoAmsterdam, Colombo, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Manchester, Mumbai[76][77]
China Cargo AirlinesBangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Shanghai-Pudong[78]
DHL AviationWorldwide
Ethiopian AirlinesAddis Ababa, Hong Kong[79]
Emirates SkyCargoDubai-Al Maktoum
Etihad CargoAbu Dhabi, Shanghai-Pudong[80]
Korean Air CargoBangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Chengdu, Seoul-Incheon
Lufthansa CargoFrankfurt, Sharjah
Martinair Cargo1Amsterdam, Dubai-Al Maktoum, Hong Kong[81][82]
MASkargoKuala Lumpur[83]
Midex AirlinesAl Ain
Neptune AirKuala Lumpur[84]
Qatar Airways CargoDoha
Singapore Airlines CargoSharjah, Singapore[85]
Southern AirHong Kong[86]
SriLankan CargoColombo, Hambantota[87]
Thai Airways InternationalAmsterdam, Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi
Transmile Air ServicesKuala Lumpur International Airport
Uni-Top AirlinesWuhan[88]

1Martinair operate aircraft in KLM colour scheme on these routes.

Chartered and other airlines[edit]

Chartered airlines operating at Chennai airport include TVS, TAJ, SUN, Swajas, India Cement, Indira Air, Reliance, Orient Flying School, Omega, Lakshmi Mills, Rainbow Air, and Air Austral. The Indian Air Force and Coast Guard also use the airport for their operations.[27]

Fixed-base operators[edit]

Flight kitchen and caterers[edit]

TajSATS, a joint venture of the Indian Hotels Company and SATS (formerly known as Singapore Airport Terminal Services) for airline catering, provides in-flight catering at Chennai airport. It also manages airport lounges in Chennai and Mumbai airports.[89] The airline lounges at Chennai airport include Maharaja Lounge at the international terminal and the Indian Airlines Lounge at the domestic terminal.[90] The Taj Madras Flight Kitchen, a joint venture of the Indian Hotels, SATS and Malaysian Airlines started in 1994,[91] is situated at GST Road, Pallavaram, and operates airport restaurants at the airport.[89] The Taj Madras Flight Kitchen also has a multi-cuisine restaurant with a full-fledged bar named 'Flights of Fancy' at the airport serving snacks and refreshments.[92]

MRO hangar facility[edit]

In 2008, Simplifly Deccan opened a US$2.9-million maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hangar at Chennai International Airport. The 70,000 sq ft facility can handle one A320 or two ATR aircraft and provides basic- and medium-level maintenance checks and protective storage for Deccan and Kingfisher Airlines aircraft and functions as a repair shop and assembly area. The hangar, which took nearly two years to build, has a total construction area of 3,200 sq m. The maintenance hall spans 46 m wide, 54 m deep and 17 m high. The hangar has space for one Airbus A320 and 2 ATR aircraft at one time. It is equipped with an engineering and training facility and an engineering maintenance conference room.[93]

As of April 2013, Air India and Jet Airways have maintenance facilities at the airport.[citation needed]

Duty-free shops[edit]

Airport houses many duty-free shops and restaurants in its lobby. The authority is planning to open more shops in the premises. It is said that around 18,500 sq ft of space is available for shops.[94]

Transport links[edit]

Layout of the Chennai Metro, Chennai Airport is the third airport after Delhi and Kolkata to be connected by a Metro Rail.

The airport is situated on the Grand Southern Trunk Road (National Highway 45) and is also served by Tirusulam railway station on the Suburban railway network. Airport prepaid taxis are available round the clock, with moderate fares fixed by the government. The proposed Metro Rail System will also connect the airport with other important places in Chennai. The concourse of the station will be linked to the passenger terminals by means of a connector tube connecting the metro station to the flyover at the terminals, so that passengers alighting from the train can go to the departure area of the airport terminals without coming out of the station building.[95] With the construction of the metro rail station, the Tirusulam suburban train station will be integrated with the metro and the airport.[96]

With the opening of the Chennai Metro rail station, Chennai airport will be the third in the country to be connected to a metro station.[97]

A flyover at the entrance of the airport helps the traffic on GST road bypass the entrance. The Kathipara grade-separator at Guindy facilitates the traffic flowing from the city centre into the airport side.


Government of India has proposed to offer a contract to a private operator to maintain and operate the daily operations of the airport. AAI recently invited bids for the same and various firms including Tata, Fraport, Celebi, Sahara, GMR, GVK and Essar have shown interest.[98][99] The airport employees are protesting against the move fearing job losses.[100]

Future expansion[edit]

There is a current plan of setting up of a new greenfield airport at Sriperumbudur and Tiruvallur taluks, apart from the expansion of the existing airport at Tirusulam. The greenfield airport would come up on 4,800 acres (1,900 ha) of land. About INR200,000 million will be invested in a greenfield airport near Chennai, says Tamil Nadu's vision 2023 document.[6]

The feasibility report of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which has suggested that a second airport for the city could come up on 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) at Sriperumbudur, was submitted to the state government. The four-runway second airport is proposed to be built on 4,823 acres near Sriperumbudur, northwest of Chennai, at an estimated cost of INR35,000 million in the first phase. Second phase not disclosed.[101] To be built in two phases, the anticipated expenditure for phase I of the project is INR40,000 million with an 87,000 sq m terminal along with a parking space for 750 vehicles. The second phase involves 150,000 sq m of terminal and enhancing parking space to accommodate 1,500 vehicles at an investment of INR14,750 million.[102] The greenfield airport will be able to handle 40 million passengers annually.[6]

An integrated simulator will be installed at Chennai airport, which will be the first of its kind in the country, at a cost of INR200 million. The equipment will be set up at the Air Traffic Services complex.[103]

Incidents and accidents[edit]


Chennai airport was chosen 'Airport of the Year' for 2012 for cargo handling. This is the third consecutive time (2010–12) the award was bagged by the airport.[107]


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]