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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Friday, June 06, 2008

Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi

Travel Dates 15th and 22nd March 2008
Click on any picture to see a larger version.


The whole country is a "Work in Progress". The capital city's international airport lets you know that on arrival.

I arrived in the wee small hours, about 2:30 am from Hong Kong. The Cathay staff on this flight were of the same standard as the flight to Hong Kong; disappointing.

India is a fascinating country and I'm very pleased I went, but the place is chaotic. Indira Gandhi International Airport was a shock. The only airport I've ever arrived at with more stuff hanging from the ceiling, more damaged walls and floors, and less things working was Darwin when I arrived with the damage assessment team in early January 1975 after Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974. And every unfinished repair had a "Work in Progress" sign on it. I never actually saw a workman near one of those signs. Not in the airport when I arrived, nor on the roads, nor in public buildings.

Bear in mind that for comparison on this last trip I passed through two Aussie airports (OOL, SYD), Bangkok, Siem Reap, Hong Kong, Delhi, Amman, Cairo, Heathrow, Dulles, JFK, Can Cun, Merida, Mexico City, Dallas and Honolulu. Some were a pain, some were effortless, but DEL was in a class of it's own.

The immigration queue was long and slow, extending back up the non-working escalator into the gloom of the brown-out. After I passed through that I found that there were several hundred drivers behind rope barriers on both sides of the passageway to the exit. After four wanders up and down the throng I was enormously relieved to find Raj. I'll say more about Raj, driving and Indian roads in a later post. If you're looking for a good, knowledgeable, safe driver to see Rajasthan - contact him via http://www.gajrajtravels.com/

Despite the experience of "Arrival" and a week wandering the Golden Triangle before I left for Jordan, nothing had prepared me for "Departure" from this Airport.

I arrived at 3:30 am for the 6:20 Royal Jordanian to Amman. At that time I expected things to be quiet. Wrong. A large crowd was milling about on the sidewalk outside the doors. They were outside because I found that I needed my passport and boarding pass just to enter the building. The sergeant on the door had apparently not heard of e-tickets. So I rummaged through my luggage until I found the email with my Qantas itinerary on it. He begrudgingly let me in.

As I entered the door a guy appeared from nowhere and grabbed the larger of my two bags, literally out of my hands, and immediately threw it on a security x-ray scan machine where it disappeared into the bowels of the scanner. As it appeared at the other end a security man sealed a plastic strip around it to indicate that it had been scanned for checked baggage. I wasn't impressed because I had intended taking both as carry-on; that had been OK on the previous five flights. The security guy would not give the bag to me but only to my helper who had put it in the machine. He seemed to have difficulty returning it until some rupees appeared in my hand.

I eventually found the Royal Jordanian desk, but only after another unsolicited helper showed me where it was; for another tip. There was a remarkable absence of signs, and the only working TV displays in that area did not show Airline counter locations. Maybe they do on other days, maybe it was the brown-out, maybe the guy who got the tip knew where the switches were...

I checked in with the friendly lady at Royal Jordanian; she whisked that second bag away on the conveyor as soon as she had my name to make up a tag. It was only later that I realised that she, and the first guy, had done me a favour. She told me to go to the immigration queue. But I was unaware that she missed a very important point. She didn't give me a carry-on bag tag.

There was another sergeant checking passport and boarding pass before you could enter the immigration queue. It was set up with ribbons into one of those "snake" affairs. The sort where you could slip the ribbon out of a supporting post if necessary. Which is exactly what the cop did about 40 minutes later when a VIP of some sort arrived, showed his passport and a few hundred rupees, and went to the front of the queue. No-one said a word. I got through about twenty minutes later. It took me a long time in the original queue to enter the country - but even longer to leave it.

Then I went through another passport and boarding pass check as I left immigration, to enter the queue for the gate lounge security scan and carry-on check. That was when I saw the "Only One Carry-on Bag Allowed" sign and silently thanked the people who sent my other bag to be checked.

Eventually, I reached the sergeant at the front of the queue. The sergeant became agitated and would not let me pass. He seemed to speak little English and I could not understand him. The English tourist behind me told me that he wanted to stamp the tag on my carry-on - and I had failed to put a tag on the bag.

After a lot of discussion in mutually incomprehensible languages a supervisor arrived and told me I must return to the RJ counter to get a tag and go through the long immigration queue again and rejoin the security queue. I gave up arguing and headed off and luckily found an RJ person who offered to go back and get me a tag - but just then the English guy called me back and said he could give me a BA tag. The sergeant accepted that - with no name, no flight number, and the wrong airline. All he wanted was a tag so he could stamp it. Despite all this, the queue had moved so slowly that I had not lost my position. I am extremely grateful to that anonymous British gentleman. May all of his dreams come true.

When I finally queued to board the aircraft, another cop was beside the flight stewards checking those carry-on tags. It didn't matter that mine was blank and for a different airline - it had a stamp! So I was allowed on board.

I have a vague feeling that I've missed one of the security scans in that description; but I think you will understand that I was immensely relieved when the plane took off for Jordan with me on board. This was the dawn through the smog through the cabin window.

I'd love to visit India again, but I may go by ship:-)

Cheers, Alan


  1. A new terminal (Terminal 3) is currently under construction and is slated for completion in December 2008. There are also plans to extend the Cairo Metro to serve the airport by 2010.
    cairo egypt airport

  2. Fascinating. You're aware that you posted that commnet in March 2010 and this post is about Delhi Airport, not Cairo Airport?

    You might like to drop in on my Egypt section and let us know if they finished that third terminal...

    Cheers, Alan