We have previously flown from Mumbai’s International airport terminal but never from the Domestic terminal – even when we’d flown domestic flights with Air India’s budget arm, Air India Express. This time we were flying with ‘Air India proper’ and using the Domestic Terminal. We’d spent the night at the Ibis hotel near to the terminal and arrived at around 5.30 am for a flight to Delhi that was due to leave at 7 am on a Sunday morning. I would guess that it’s not the busiest time of the week and that anyone who could afford to fly a little later probably wouldn’t opt to be there quite so early. It was also a festival – Dussehra – so once again, most people who wanted to travel for the holiday would probably have already gone.
Some airports in India make you X-ray your bags before you fly, indeed Mumbai used to be such an airport but they seem to have now phased this out and we didn’t need to join a queue for a bag check before we checked in. We were pretty early and there was no queue at all and our check in was completed very quickly. The check-in lady told us to put away our passports as they wouldn’t be needed. Considering the normally high levels of security in Indian airports, that was quite a surprise.
First step was to get our hand luggage checked. There were two machines in operation and as we headed to the same one, my husband stopped me and pointed out that I was going to the ‘boys’ machine and needed to go to the ‘girls’ machine. Sadly – and quite unusually – the pink line was much longer than the blue, thanks in the main part to a large group of Russian women who seemed to be intent on making their security check as long winded as possible by not understanding that they had to present their computers separately, remove their coats and any heavy shoes. Whilst they fussed around in front of me, two women in Hijab repeatedly attempted to jump the queue, hand bags still over their shoulders. The security women got rather annoyed with them and kept sending them back. When I finally got through putting all my things on the belt and headed through the metal detector, I struggled to get anywhere near the belt again as the Russians were gathered around blocking all the other passengers. One of them was arguing with the security guy who’d found a crystal ball in her hand luggage and was trying to explain that it could be used as a weapon. Watching him miming crushing the pilot’s skull with the large heavy lump of glass was almost as funny as watching the owner of the ball begging and pleading him to let her keep it. I left before the issue was resolved but it’s worth keeping in mind that if you can’t leave home without your fortune-telling paraphernalia, it’s maybe better to stick them in your hold luggage.
There are a few shops in the terminal but nothing seemed to be open so early. I did note that even though there were not many outlets, they’d managed to get a Manchester United shop. Clearly Indian travellers have their priorities when it comes to retail therapy.
We headed straight down to our gate area where I blew a few hundred rupees in the newsagents and my husband picked up a couple of coffees. Despite us being in an area with several different departure gates, only one of them was being used for all of the flights. The way to tell which flight was loading at any time was to listen carefully to the man at the gate hollering very loudly. Eventually we got the call "De-leeeeeeee, De-leeeeee" and went to the bus.
I had previously checked out the Google maps of the airport like a good potential terrorist (sorry, tourist) to make sure I knew where the different terminals were. We got onto a dodgy old bus and then drove for about 20 minutes, all the way round the airport and right back to the International area where we’d arrived the day before.
When we returned 12 days later, the bags were delivered to the carousel quickly and efficiently. We quickly found the pre-paid and fleet taxi desks and booked a car for our onward journey. The airport security folk keep all the non-passengers outside the terminal so there’s plenty of space inside and you can’t get approached by taxi touts or other trouble makers. As a domestic terminal you’ll find fewer facilities than in the International terminals, but there are still plenty of toilets and ATM machines – the basics of a travellers needs.
I believe there’s a new terminal due to open very shortly which will replace the current International terminals. What I’m not sure is whether it will also handle domestic flights in the same way that Delhi’s new airport was designed to do.