Chennai Airport Information Guide

What You Need to Know About Chennai Airport

Chennai Airport
••• arunpnair / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Chennai international airport is the main hub for arrivals and departures in south India. It services more than 18 million passengers a year. This makes it the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of passenger traffic, after Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Over 400 aircraft arrive and depart from the airport every day.

Although Chennai airport receives more international passengers than Bangalore airport, capacity constraints prevent it from growing further.

The airport is owned and operated by the government-run Airports Authority of India. It's in the process of being modernized and redeveloped. As part of this, new domestic and international terminals were built and opened in 2013, and the secondary runway was extended. 

A second phase of redevelopment is currently being planned, including the expansion of the new domestic and international terminals. It's expected to start by the end of 2017 and be completed by 2021, and will increase the airport's capacity to 30 million passengers per year. The old terminals will be demolished, rather than integrated with the new domestic and international terminals. They lack space and their design does not fit with the modern new terminals, which are made from steel and glass. An additional new terminal will be built in their place, resulting in the airport having three integrated terminal buildings.

Airport Name and Code

Chennai International Airport (MAA).

The domestic terminal is known as K. Kamaraj airport and the international terminal is known as C.N. Annadurai airport. The terminals are named after former chief ministers of Tamil Nadu.

Airport Contact Information

Airport Location

Chennai airport has three terminals, spread over the suburbs of Meenambakkam (cargo terminal), Pallavaram and Tirusulam about 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) southwest of the city center.

Travel Time to City Center

20-30 minutes.

Airport Facilities

Unfortunately, plans to privatize Chennai airport caused redevelopment works to temporarily cease. The rather unimpressive new domestic and international terminals, situated about 800 meters apart, are not integrated. They were to be connected by a moving walkway but it hasn't been built yet. Golf carts are being used to transport passengers between the terminals in the interim. The moving walkway is likely to be completed as part of the second phase of the airport redevelopment. It will also connect the terminals to the multi-level car park and upcoming Metro train station.

Departing domestic passengers are still required to get their baggage screened before check-in. Inline baggage screening machines were procured in July 2017 and are pending installment.

Note that boarding calls ceased being made in the domestic terminal from May 1, 2017 to reduce noise pollution. Passengers must now rely on screens for departure information.

Unlike the old domestic terminal, the old international terminal has continued to function. The international arrivals area is still located there. Immigration can be slow at peak times, due to insufficient number of immigration officers.

Amenities such as restaurants and coffee shops are lacking (albeit somewhat improved), due to the redevelopment. Other basic amenities, such as adequate seating for passengers and charging points for electronic devices, also require improvement.

The international arrivals area and the new domestic terminal have been attractively decorated with art work and paintings.

A wireless Internet facility (free for 30 minutes) is available at the airport. However, there are frequent reports of it not working.

Luggage can be stored at the "Left Luggage Facility" situated between the domestic and international terminals. The cost is 100 rupees per 24 hours. Maximum storage time is one week.

Unfortunately, poor workmanship and lack of maintenance in the new terminals has resulted in some safety issues that travelers need to be aware of.

Since the terminals opened in 2013, glass panels, granite slabs and false ceilings have collapsed more than 75 times!

Airport Lounges

Chennai airport has a lounge called the "Travel Club". It's located near Gate 7 of the new international terminal and near Gate 5 of the domestic terminal. The international lounge is open 24 hours and serves alcohol, while the alcohol-free domestic lounge is open from 4 a.m. until 9 p.m. Both lounges provide refreshments, newspapers, wireless Internet, TVs, and flight information.

Priority Pass holders, Visa Infinite cardholders, eligible Mastercard cardholders, and eligible Jet Airways and Emirates Airlines passengers can access the lounge free of cost. Otherwise, you can purchase a day pass for entry.

Airport Transport

Chennai airport is well connected in terms of transport. The best way to get to the city center is by taking a prepaid taxi. The fares are different from the domestic and international terminals, although it will cost about 350 rupees to Egmore. It's also possible to take the train. There's a train station (Tirusulam) across the road not far from the airport, and suburban trains run from there to Egmore Station. Travel time is around 40 minutes. Alternatively, Metropolitan Transport Corporation bus services are available. However, do note that these facilities are not linked to the new airport terminals and are located quite a distance away.

    Airport Parking

    When dropping off or collecting passengers, cars must enter and exit the airport within 10 minutes. Otherwise a parking fee is levied, irrespective of whether parking facilities have been used. This can be challenging when the airport is congested, as the toll booth is located through a service road at the end of the airport. The fee is 150 rupees for two hours.

    Where to Stay Near the Airport

    Chennai airport has retiring rooms, which operate 24 hours for transit passengers. They're located between the new domestic and international terminals, on the ground floor to the left of the airport staff canteen. The accommodations are provided in air-conditioned dormitories, with separate rooms for women and men. There are also shower facilities. Expect to pay 700 rupees per night. Advance bookings are not possible.

    In addition, a number of hotels near Chennai airport cater to transit passengers, with options for all budgets. This Chennai Airport Hotel Guide will help you decide where to stay.