As Lufthansa flight LH752 from Frankfurt touched down on a rain-washed tarmac at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad at 12.25 am on Sunday, smiles and cheers broke all bounds, for it marked the long-awaited start of commercial operations at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. As if to make up for the initial hiccups, the fully-lit airport was decked up like a bride to welcome its first-ever flight. The same aircraft was scheduled to depart at 2.30 am for Frankfurt, thus becoming the first commercial flight to take off from the airport.
As the villages surrounding it went to sleep, the airport was glowing in anticipation as people walked in to receive their friends and relatives who were arriving on the first flight. Others were there to give a warm send-off to their dear ones who were departing on the same plane. Local people from surrounding villages also came with their families to share the joy of the formal opening of the airport in their neighbourhood, which was marked by drumbeats and dances. The passengers and those who came to see them off were equally excited.
“We are going to talk about this airport everywhere we go,” said one passenger. “It is a huge airport with massive infrastructure. Never mind the travelling distance.” It was all hunky dory on the first night. There were colourful balloons hanging from the pillars, helpful security men and personnel to push trolleys for free. Many passengers and their relatives reached the airport four hours ahead just to have a feel of the place.
Ms V. Veena, Ms Rani and Mr Bose, scheduled to leave for Frankfurt by the first flight, said they did not feel that the travel time to the airport was too much. “We came from Dilsukhnagar and the drive took almost the same time as it used to take to go to Begumpet,” said Ms Veena. Ms Preethi Devi, who works with Satyam Computers in Boston, said she was excited to take the first flight. “It is a beautiful airport, not only well-manned but also well-lit,” she said. “The roads from the city to the airport are also well-laid.”
As the first flight rolled down the tarmac, airline officials, GMR group representatives and civil aviation officials congratulated each other. They also heaved a sigh of relief that things went off smoothly. Local people also cheered. “We are delighted that a Lufthansa aircraft landed first and will also take off from the new international airport,” said Mr Werner Heesen, director (South Asia) of Lufthansa. “The new airport symbolises India’s focus on improving infrastructure,” he added. “We are proud to share this moment with all who have contributed to building it.”