Andaman & Nicobar Islands, one of the nine Union Territories of India, comprises of 572 Islands of which 37 are inhabited. It is covered with dense rain fed damp and evergreen forest with endless varieties of flora and fauna. Its capital Port Blair is the entryway to the rich expanse of beauty and serenity that the islands have to offer. Enriched with history, it offers splendid sights and treats for history lovers. Port Blair is also an Island town offering popular water-based adventure activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, sea cruises and glimpses of the history and culture of the region. These islands have a tropical climate, which can be best enjoyed between the months of October and May. These islands present picturesque natural paradise with white sandy beaches, rich coral reefs and lush green forest.
History and Development
Port Blair Airport saw its first ever landing by a British sea plane in 1930. In 1937, they built a kuttcha strip. Two fighter planes were brought, which were permanently based at the airport. Upon the outbreak of the World War II, the Japanese overcame the British and occupied Port Blair. In March 1943, the Japanese constructed the runway transforming the kuttcha strip into a pucca runway with night landing facilities. However, on December 29, 1943, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose landed at Port Blair Airport and unfurled the tri-colour flag as the National Flag of India for the first time in history.
The Director General of Civil Aviation established air link to guard the national interest, Government of India approved the transfer of Port Blair Airport from DGCA to the Indian Navy. Airports Authority of India now operates Portblair Airport as a civil enclave jointly with Indian Navy-Air Traffic Control.
AAI manages passengers’ terminal facilities linking this archipelago to the mainland with all major metros. The airport, which now has a built up area of 6515 sqm, has seen many infrastructural changes from time to time. This building was designed earlier to cater to over 0.7 million passengers per annum and 700 passengers at peak hours. It is provided with six parking bays for A320/21 category of aircraft and three conveyor belts. Landing and Navigational aids such as localiser, Doppler Very High Frequency Omni-directional range (DVOR) and Non-directional beacon (NDB) are operational.
Over the years, Port Blair Airport has witnessed a significant growth in Air Traffic Movement as well as Passenger Movement. The year 2018-19 recorded the highest Air Traffic growth at the airport with a figure of 17,11,881 passengers from 15,49,951 in 2017-18. Port Blair Airport has witnessed a growth of around 96 per cent in passenger traffic over the last four years. The airport reached new heights when it handled a maximum of 1,85,688 passengers in the month of January 2018. Port Blair Airport recorded a total of 14,754 aircraft movements in the year 2018-19 from 14,190 aircraft movements in 2017-18, projecting an increase of around 45 per cent during last four years.
The Air Cargo Terminal at Port Blair Airport became operational on October 1, 2010. It handles domestic inbound and outbound air cargo. The Cargo terminal takes pride in serving the islands as a gateway for a variety of cargo commodities ranging from perishables, fish & marine products, postal mail, general & express cargo as well as essential medicines. Passenger aircraft handles all the inbound and outbound cargo from Port Blair. With the increasing volume of e-commerce activity, express cargo volumes are set to rise manifold while the Air Cargo Terminal is poised to firmly establish itself as a key player in the e-Commerce supply chain in the coming years.
Port Blair Airport is well connected to the major cities of India. Direct flights to Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Vishakhapatnam are operated daily from Port Blair. At present, Port Blair Airport has around 36 scheduled flight movements per day operated by Air India, Go Air, SpiceJet, IndiGo and Air Vistara.
Port Blair Airport Terminal is a single-level operational building having two departure gates and an arrival gate including emergency exits. The terminal building is equipped with 15 Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) for quick and hassle free check-in and also two self-check-in KIOSK machines. The passengers are facilitated with around 600 baggage trolleys and lavish and comfortable seating arrangements. Other facilities like ATMs, Tourism Information Counter, Pre-Paid Taxi Services and Baby Care Room are also available. The airport has many outlets, which sell everything from handicraft to pearls, garments and snacks etc. Few of the upcoming facilities to enhance passenger facilitation at the airport include Beer bar parlour and smoking zones in Security Hold Area, Food Court at Departure Area and Reservation cum Facilitation Counter at the Arrival Area.
To address the increase in passenger traffic and congestion at the airport during peak hours, one more X-Ray Baggage Inspection System (XBIS) is being installed. Renovation of all the washrooms of the airport is being done in phased manner. The centralised Air Conditioning System was upgraded in August 2019 to give a pleasant ambience to the passengers. The Terminal Building was given a facelift by replacing the entire wall cladding and floor tiles with improved aesthetics recently.
The existing terminal designed for 0.7 million passengers per annum is now catering to over 1.7 million passengers. To address the passenger requirements due to the rise in air traffic, construction of a New Integrated Terminal Building (NITB) adjacent to the existing Terminal Building was started in 2017. It is scheduled to be completed by November 2020. The new passenger terminal building has three-levels comprising of lower ground, upper ground and first floor. The lower ground floor has remote departure and service areas. Upper ground floor has access to the Terminal Building as well as the way out for Arrival passengers while first floor provides the Waiting Lounge for international passengers. Three Aerobridges with Apron has been designed for type C/D category of aircraft. This New Integrated Terminal Building will accommodate 1,200 peak hour passengers. The new building will also be equipped with 28 check-in counters and 12 common use self-service (CUSS) check-in counters. For baggage handling, In-line scan system has been adopted for departure and baggage carousel for arrival passengers. It has four conveyor belts – three for domestic and one for international – separated by sliding folding glass partition. The entire terminal is lit by 100% natural lighting 12-hour a day, which is achieved by skylights along the roof.
The art of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands could be best seen in their crafts made of shells. These shells are used for making beautiful and colourful designing ornaments. A wide range of decorative shells are there in this island. Designed materials made of crafted shells comprises the major portion of the Island’s art. This art of Andaman and Nicobar Islands have given birth to shell-made classic ornaments and wooden materials. From colourful sea treasures to local artefacts, there is a lot you can shop for from the Port Blair airport. It houses a lot of local emporiums wherein souvenirs made of shells, corals, pearls, forest woods and handmades are available.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands are developing into a major tourism hub with exotic looking beaches and pristine islands having equally wonderful opportunities for various adventure sports. However, inter-island connectivity has been a big issue there. To address this issue, under Government of India’s RCS – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme, AAI is developing three Civil Enclaves at Shibpur (Diglipur), Carnic and Campbell Bay Islands. To further promote tourism in smaller islands, AAI is developing three Water Aerodromes at Swaraj Dweep (Havelock Island), Shaheed Dweep (Neil Island) and Long Island. Seaplane operations will definitely be an interesting attraction in these islands.
Know Your Airport Director
Jameel Khaliq joined VSI Airport, Port Blair as Airport Director on March 25, 2019. He has playing an instrumental role in development of Port Blair Airport and enhancement of Inter- Island Connectivity.
In 20 years of service, he was instrumental in site selection and operation of CAT, Prayagraj from 2012-2015 as Airport Incharge. He worked towards development of new terminal at CE, Chakeri, Kanpur.
He was instrumental in enhancing traffic and non-traffic revenue of CE, Chakeri, Kanpur Airport by starting daily Boeing operations for Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata during 2018-19.