Chennai International Airport

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Chennai International Airport
சென்னை பன்னாட்டு வானூர்தி நிலையம்
Ceṉṉai Paṉṉāṭṭu Vāṉūrti Nilaiyam
Chennai airport view 4.jpeg
Aerial view of Chennai airport
Airport type Public
Owner Airports Authority of India
Serves Chennai Metropolitan Area
Location Chennai, Tamil Nadu,
Opened 1910 (1910)
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL 52 ft / 16 m
Coordinates 12°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
Website Chennai Airport
MAA is located in Chennai
MAA is located in Tamil Nadu
MAA is located in India
Direction Length Surface
ft m
07/25 12,001 3,658 Asphalt
12/30 9,596 2,925 Asphalt/Concrete
Statistics (Apr'15-Feb'16)
Passenger movements 15,340,000 (Increase12%) [1]
Aircraft movements 113,496 (Increase0.9%)
Cargo tonnage 283,934 (Increase2.9%)
Source: AAI[2][3][4]

Chennai International Airport (IATA: MAAICAO: VOMM) is the primary airport serving the southern Indian metropolis of Chennai. The airport is spread across the suburban areas of Meenambakkam, Pallavaram and Tirusulam. It is the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of passenger traffic after Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and the third busiest after Delhi and Mumbai in terms of international passengers and cargo handled. In 2015-16, the airport handled 15.3 million passengers at a growth rate of 12% YoY and about 400 aircraft movements per day.

The domestic and the international terminals are named after former chief ministers of Tamil Nadu K Kamaraj and C N Annadurai respectively. It was the first airport in India to have international and domestic terminals located adjacent to each other. The airport serves as the regional headquarters of the Airports Authority of India for the southern region of India comprising the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala and the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep.

The airport serves as the main hub for Jet Airways, Air Costa, Air Carnival and Blue Dart Aviation. It also serves as focus city for GoAir and IndiGo. The airport is expected to reach saturation by 2018–19, necessitating the construction of a second airport.


Giacomo D'Angelis and his biplane in 1910, the first flight ever in Asia
Façade of Chennai airport in 2007


The aviation history of the city began in 1910, when a city-based Corsican hotelier Giacomo D'Angelis built an aircraft and tested it.[5] Inspired by Louis Blériot, a Frenchman who was the first to fly across the English Channel in July 1909,[5][6] D'Angelis collaborated with Simpson's, a leading coach-builder in the city, to build a biplane.[7] 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.[5] On 10 March 1910, D'Angelis tested the aircraft in the suburb of Pallavaram, making it the first flight ever in Asia.[8] While demonstrating it to the public during the ticketed show, he even took a person from the crowd on the aircraft as his passenger.[7] Immediately, he also arranged a public viewing at the Island Grounds, charging entrance fees for the demonstration.[5]

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.[7] 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.[7] The aviators included Baron de Caters and Jules Tyck.[9] On 15 February 1911, Tyck flew in a Blériot 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.[7] 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.[7] Two days later, on 18 February, another demonstration was given by Baron de Caters, when he flew his aircraft in public.[9]

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.[10]

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.[6][7] The club had 71 founding members, of whom 14 were Indians. Flt Lt H N Hawker became the club's first flight instructor.[6] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[11]


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 (Belagavi) in 1954.[12] The airport was built on land donated by the former governor of Madras Presidency, K Sriramulu Naidu.[12] Although the first aircraft "Puss Moth" landed in Chennai Airport in 1932, the usage was confined only to military operations during World War II.[13] 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,[14] which is the second gateway air cargo terminal in the country after the one at Kolkata airport.[15] The first passenger terminal was built at the north-east 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.[13] On 23 September 1999, a centre for flowers, fruits and vegetables was commissioned at the cargo terminal.[14] The new international departure terminal was commissioned in 2003.[13]

In 2001, Chennai Airport became the first international airport in the country to receive ISO 9001-2000 certification.[16][17][18] In 2008, the AAI started major modernisation of the airport.[19]


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, Telangana, 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.[20]

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 are handled by the Bureau of Immigration.[21]


The 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.[22][23] The airport employees are protesting against the move fearing job losses.[24]

Layout and infrastructure[edit]

The new domestic terminal of the airport

Spread over an area of 1,283 acres (519 ha),[25] 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.

Artistic work on the walls of the terminals

Passenger Terminal[edit]

The passenger terminal complex consists of the domestic and international terminals interconnected by a link building, which houses administrative offices and a restaurant.[12] Although the complex is one continuous structure, it was built incrementally, Anna terminal was added in 1988 to the pre-existing Kamaraj terminal. The first part to be built was the international terminal which had two aero-bridges followed by the domestic terminal with three aero-bridges. 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 aero-bridges. 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.[26] 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.[27] The Kamaraj domestic terminal covers an area of 19,250 m2 (207,200 sq ft) with 48 check-in counters. The Anna international terminal covers 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.[28] 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 and 2 at the international terminal.[29] 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.[30] The Anna international terminal has 6 boarding gates on the first floor. The Kamaraj domestic terminal has a total of 9 boarding gates, including 6 on the ground floor and 3 on the first floor.[28]

The airport currently has 70 parking bays, one of which can accommodate the super-jumbo Airbus A380.[25] 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.[28] Works on the 24 new night parking bays had been completed in the apron area. With the new parking bays, the Chennai airport has 81 parking bays.[31] Chennai airport is the first airport in India to have aero-bridges at the domestic terminal.[16]

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.[32]

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 4.42 crore.[33]

New passenger terminals[edit]

Check-in area

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 1 crore passengers and when integrated with existing terminals will provide for a handling capacity of 2.3 crore 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 aero-bridge and 60 immigration counters and the two runways would be interconnected by a network of taxiways. The terminal complex will have a flyover travellator 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.[34] The 600-m long walkalator belt will be installed at a cost of 26 crore.[35]


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.[36]

The domestic terminal building currently measures 139,931 sq ft (13,000.0 m2) and handles 47.4 lakh passengers a year. The revamped design of the domestic terminal building will accommodate twice as many passengers in a three-storey 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.[37] 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 hard-stand 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 hard-stand 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 in-line baggage handling system capable of Level 4 security screening system. This system consists of four departure conveyors of a total length of 3,500 m and can handle 1,200 baggages per hour.[38]

The new terminal buildings measure more than 140,000 m2 (1,500,000 sq ft). The new terminals buildings are expected to cater to 1.4 crore more passengers per annum, including 40 lakh per annum at the international terminals. With the existing terminals handling 90 lakh, the airport will be able to handle 2.3 crore passengers per annum after the integration[39] with 1.6 crore in domestic and 70 lakh in the international terminal.[38] After expansion, the aircraft movements in the airport is likely to increase at the rate of 5 to 7%. By 2020–21, the airport is expected to handle 500 movements a day.[30] 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 land-side and air-side 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.[39] The power requirement at the expanded airport is around 110 kV·A – more than three times the current needs.[40] 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.[41] 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.[30]

Accidents and Controversies

In recent years, there were many reported incidents of ceiling collapses and glass door and window breakages due to the poor quality and improper design 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 of a roof collapse happened in end April 2015, bringing the total number of incidents to an abnormal 45. As on 11 August 2015, the number of incidents have reached 50 which has been a point of discussion in social networking sites.[42]

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.[14] 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.[43] The existing covered area of cargo terminal in occupation of AAI is 37,085 sq m.[14] There are three ETV build-up/working stations and 18 manual build-up ETV loading positions at the complex.[43]

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.[44] The complex has an exclusive cargo apron which can accommodate three wide-bodied aircraft with ULD parking area and hydrant-refuelling facility at the bay.[43] 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.[14]

Export area
Ground floor area 5,200 sq m
First floor area (office) 2,295 sq m
Truck dock position/area 14 trucks (865 sq m)
Examination area 770 sq m
Bonded area 2,270 sq m
Import area
Total area 20,090 sq m

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

Area Annual capacity (Tonnes) Annual tonnage (Tonnes)
Export General 265,000 160,000
Import 277,460 130,000
Total 542,460 290,000

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 8 lakh tonnes of cargo annually from the existing 3 lakh 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,[45] with three chambers at 0 to 12 °C covering a total area of 445 sq m.[46] 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.[45]

In 2009, an integrated cargo complex was planned in the cargo complex of the airport. The complex would be constructed, at a cost of 145 crore, 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 75 crore.[47]

Air traffic control tower[edit]

Chennai is the home to India's biggest air traffic control (ATC) centre.[48] 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.[49] Advance surface movement guidance and control system has been introduced in the ATC tower.[50]

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 42 crore 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.[49][51] 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.[52][53][54]

Chennai is among the four flight information centres in the country besides Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, and the Chennai ATC has Hyderabad, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru under its control. Besides the two radars in Chennai, radar systems in Mangaluru, Bengaluru, Bengaluru HAL, Shamshabad (Hyderabad), Bellary and Thiruvananthapuram are included in the new system.[55] With the advanced integrated radar technology, ATC in Chennai now has the entire South Indian region on its radar screens, mainly coordinating flight movements above 26,000 to 46,000 ft.[49]

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.[56]


Runway 07/25 as seen from St Thomas Mount

Chennai airport has two runways—the 3,658 m (12,001 ft) long primary runway No 07/25 (North-east - South-west orientation) and the 2,925 m (9,596 ft) long secondary runway No 12/30 (North-west - South-east orientation). Approach lights include CAT-1 category at runway 07 and CAT-1 type at runway 25 for 510 m. Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI)-type landing aids are available in all the runways.[28] Routine maintenance works of the primary runway are carried out twice a week—between 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays.[57]

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.[58]

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 430 crore. 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,[59] whose commissioning, initially planned to be by November 2011, has been delayed as the approach lighting system has not been installed.[60] While the cost of extending the runway was projected to be about 240 crore, that of the bridge is almost 230 crore.[25] 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.[61] The bridge accommodates the runway and a taxiway, making Chennai Airport the only international airport in India to have a runway across a river.[62][63] 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.[57]

With a new airport under consideration, the project for a parallel runway has been put on hold and the total land required for the airport expansion reduced from 1,069.99 acres to 800 acres.[64] AAI planned to operate 2,400 m even after removing obstructions. About 2,085 m of the runway was earlier used for landing only smaller aircraft, like ATR types.[65] In February 2012, airport authorities announced that only about 2,160 m of the secondary runway would be operational 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.[66] 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.[67]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Domestic flights operate from the Kamaraj Terminal, while the Anna Terminal is used for international flights. The old terminal at Meenambakkam is used for cargo operations. The airport serves as the regional headquarters of the Airports Authority of India for the southern region of India comprising the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala and the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep.[68]


An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER on approach
Boeing 747 cargo aircraft of Martinair (in KLM Cargo livery), Global Supply Systems, and Southern Air
Airlines Destinations Terminal
Air Arabia Sharjah Anna
AirAsia Kuala Lumpur–International Anna
Air Austral Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi (ends 29 October 2016),[69] Saint-Denis de la Réunion Anna
Air Carnival Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli (begins 30 October 2016),[70] Tuticorin (begins 30 October 2016) Kamaraj
Air Costa Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Jaipur Kamaraj
Air India Ahmedabad, Colombo, Delhi, Dubai–International, Goa, Hyderabad, Kuwait, Malé (ends 29 October 2016), Mumbai, Muscat, Sharjah, Singapore, Thiruvananthapuram Anna
Air India Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Madurai, Mumbai, Port Blair Kamaraj
Air India Express Kuala Lumpur–International, Kozhikode(begins 29 October 2016), Singapore, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirapalli Anna
Air Mauritius Mauritius Anna
British Airways London–Heathrow Anna
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Anna
Emirates Dubai–International Anna
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Anna
Flydubai Dubai–International Anna
GoAir Ahmedabad, Bagdogra, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Port Blair, Pune Kamaraj
Gulf Air Bahrain Anna
IndiGo Dubai–International, Singapore Anna
IndiGo Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Pune, Port Blair, Raipur, Srinagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Visakhapatnam Kamaraj
Jet Airways Abu Dhabi, Singapore Anna
Jet Airways Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad,[71] Indore, Kolkata, Madurai, Mumbai, Mangalore, Port Blair, Pune, Rajahmundry, Tiruchirappalli, Vadodara Kamaraj
Kuwait Airways Kuwait Anna
Lufthansa Frankfurt (resumes 31 October 2016)[72][73] Anna
operated by Lufthansa CityLine
Frankfurt (ends 30 October 2016)[72][73] Anna
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur–International Anna
Maldivian Dhaka, Malé Anna
Mihin Lanka Colombo (ends 29 October 2016)[74] Anna
Oman Air Muscat Anna
Qatar Airways Doha Anna
Saudia Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh Anna
Scoot Singapore[75] Anna
SilkAir Singapore Anna
Singapore Airlines Singapore Anna
SpiceJet Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Colombo Anna
SpiceJet Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati (begins 15 November 2016), Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Madurai, Mumbai, Port Blair, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram,[76] Tuticorin, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam Kamaraj
SriLankan Airlines Colombo Anna
Thai AirAsia Bangkok–Don Mueang Anna
Thai Airways International Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi Anna
TruJet Goa, Hyderabad, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada Kamaraj


Airlines Destinations
Aerologic Frankfurt, Dhaka
Blue Dart Aviation Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai
Cargolux Kuala Lumpur–International, Muscat, Luxembourg, Sharjah
Cathay Pacific Cargo Amsterdam, Colombo, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Delhi, Bengaluru, Manchester, Mumbai
China Cargo Airlines Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Shanghai–Pudong, Taipei–Taoyuan
Emirates SkyCargo Dubai–Al-Maktoum, London-Heathrow
Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa, Hong Kong
Etihad Cargo Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Shanghai–Pudong
FitsAir Bengaluru, Colombo, Kochi, Mumbai, Tiruchirappalli, Thiruvananthapuram
KLM Cargo Amsterdam, Muscat, Delhi, Dubai–Al-Maktoum, Hong Kong, Paris Charles de Gaulle
Korean Air Cargo Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Chengdu, London-Stansted, Seoul–Incheon, Taipei–Taoyuan
Lufthansa Cargo Frankfurt, Hyderabad, Sharjah
MASkargo Bangalore, Kuala Lumpur–International
Neptune Air Kuala Lumpur–International, Singapore, Taipei–Taoyuan
Qatar Airways Cargo Bangalore, Doha
Quikjet Cargo Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai
Singapore Airlines Cargo Amsterdam, Brussels, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Sharjah, Singapore
Southern Air Hong Kong, Sharjah, Singapore
SriLankan Cargo Chittagong, Colombo, Hambantota, Hong Kong
Transmile Air Services Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur–International, Singapore, Kuwait
Uni-Top Airlines Delhi, Mumbai, Wuhan

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.[29]

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. TajSATS adheres to ISO 22000:2005 standards and achieved Halal Certification. It also manages airport lounges in Chennai and Mumbai airports.[77] The airline lounges at Chennai airport include Maharaja Lounge at the international terminal and the Indian Airlines Lounge at the domestic terminal.[78] The Taj Madras Flight Kitchen, a joint-venture of the Indian Hotels, SATS and Malaysia Airlines started in 1994,[79] is situated at GST Road, Pallavaram, and operates airport restaurants at the airport.[77] 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.[80]

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.[81] As of 2015, Air India, Jet Airways and Air Costa 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. Recently, Flemingo International, Dubai was given the contract to open duty-free shops in both the International and Domestic terminals.[82][83]


Layout of the Chennai Metro

The airport is situated on the Grand Southern Trunk Road (National Highway 32), a major national highway connecting several cities within the state. The airport is 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 airport metro station of the Chennai Metro connects the airport to other parts of the city, making it the second airport in India to be connected to a metro system.[84] Shuttle services between the metro station and the terminals are provided for the passengers.[85] In future, the concourse of the metro 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.[86] The Tirusulam suburban train station will also be integrated with the metro station and the airport.[87] 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 onto the airport side.

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 20,000 crore will be invested in a greenfield airport near Chennai, says Tamil Nadu's vision 2023 document.[88]

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, South-west of Chennai, at an estimated cost of 3,500 crore in the first phase. Second phase not disclosed.[89] To be built in two phases, the anticipated expenditure for phase I of the project is 4,000 crore with an 87,000 sq m terminal along with a parking space for 750 vehicles. The second phase involves 1,50,000 sq m of terminal and enhancing parking space to accommodate 1,500 vehicles at an investment of 1,475 crore.[90] The greenfield airport will be able to handle 4 crore passengers annually.[88]

An integrated simulator will be installed at Chennai airport, which will be the first of its kind in the country, at a cost of 20 crore. The equipment will be set up at the Air Traffic Services complex.[91]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • On 5 March 1999, Air France flight 6745, an ex-UTA Boeing 747-2B3F (SCD) freighter (registration F-GPAN) carrying a revenue load of 66 tonnes of cargo from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris to Madras via Karachi and Bengaluru crash-landed, caught fire and burned out. Madras ATC had cleared the aircraft for an ILS approach to the airport's runway 07. The crew abandoned the approach due to technical difficulties and the aircraft circled to attempt a second approach. At the end of the second approach, the aircraft's nose struck the runway while touching down because its nose gear was not locked. The plane skidded and came to rest 7,000 feet (2,100 m) down the 13,050 ft (3,980 m) runway. After it had come to a standstill, the crew noticed smoke on the flight deck and began to extinguish the flames. Soon after, flames erupted in the aircraft's front section. One crew member managed to escape from the flight deck via a rope ladder. The remaining four crew members were rescued by the airport fire service from the rear, before the flames engulfed the entire aircraft. The fire service was unable to extinguish the fire and the aircraft burned out.[92]
  • On 29 September 1986, Indian Airlines flight IC 571, an Airbus A300b2-1c (registration VT-ELV), on a routine flight from Chennai to Mumbai, aborted take-off due to a bird-strike and suffered a runway excursion. No fatalities were reported. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
  • In August 1984, a bomb blast 1,200 m from the airport killed 33 persons and injured 27 others.It was in old airport building situated near Meenambakkam railway station.[93] The entire concourse was razed down and had to be rebuilt.[94]

2015 Chennai floods[edit]

In December 2015, unprecedented rainfall associated with India's North-east monsoon caused extensive flooding of the airport tarmac and runways. The airport was closed to all traffic by the Airports Authority of India from the evening of 1 December until noon on 6 December. About 1,500 passengers and 2,000 airport workers were evacuated as water entered terminal buildings and 30-35 aircraft were stranded on the apron.[95] Military authorities permitted the use of Naval Air Station INS Rajali in Arakkonam, 70 km (43 mi) west of central Chennai and Tambaram Air Force Station 20 km (12 mi) south as relief airports for a limited service of civilian commercial flights as well as official rescue/assistance flights.[96] Additionally, Indian Air Force evacuated passengers from Chennai airport to the two military bases for onward journeys on Air Force transport aircraft to other domestic destinations.[97] On 5 December, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation permitted a partial re-opening of the airport during daylight hours under visual meteorological conditions only, allowing airlines to ferry stranded aircraft out of Chennai without passengers or cargo on board. Operations under instrument meteorological conditions were not permitted. Rescue and assistance flights were however permitted to operate in and out of the airport.[98]


Chennai airport was chosen 'Airport of the Year' for 2012 for cargo handling. This is the third consecutive time (2010–12) the award was collected by the airport.[99]

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External links[edit]