Chennai International Airport Guide

The Main Hub for Flights in South India

Inside Chennai airport

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Chennai International Airport is the main hub for arrivals and departures in southern India. It services just over 20 million passengers a year, about a quarter of whom are flying internationally. This makes it the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of passenger traffic after Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Over 400 aircrafts arrive and depart from the airport every day.

Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information

Chennai International Airport (MAA) is situated about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) southwest of the city center in Meenambakkam. The city of Chennai is sometimes referred to as Madras, the old name which was officially changed in 1996.

Know Before You Go

The airport is owned and operated by the government-run Airports Authority of India, which means that it lacks the organization and sophistication of India's three bigger private airports. 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. However, the airport is again facing severe capacity constraints, as passenger traffic is growing by nearly 15% per year.

The second phase of redevelopment is currently underway to expand the airport. It's expected to be completed by 2021 and will increase the capacity to 30 million passengers per year. The redevelopment includes the demolition of the airport's old terminals and construction of an additional new integrated terminal building in their place. This third terminal will serve as an international terminal between the two existing terminals, both of which function as domestic terminals. A multi-level car park will also be constructed.

It's anticipated that the new integrated terminal will be much more user-friendly than the existing terminals, as it's being designed by a firm that was involved in the widely lauded Terminal 4 of Singapore's Changi Airport (consistently rated best in the world). Passengers can expect some inconvenience while the construction work is going on.

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 100 rupees for two hours.

Driving Directions

From Chennai, get on the Anna Salai/Chennai Trichy Highway and keep to the right. When you see the post office, continue onto to Taluk Office Road and use the right lanes to make a slight right onto Chennai-Nagapattinam Highway/Chennai Trichy Highway. Continue to get back onto the Anna Salai/Chennai Nagapattinam Highway for six kilometers until you begin to see signs for the airport.

Public Transportation and Taxis

Chennai airport is well-connected in terms of transport. The following options are available for getting to the city center:

  • App-based cab services Ola and Uber operate at the airport. Both have booking kiosks and dedicated pickup areas there. At the domestic terminal, the Uber Pickup Zone is located at pillars 6-8 opposite Arrival Gate 3. At the international terminal, the Uber Pickup Zone is beside the Uber kiosk.
  • Fastrack Cabs and prepaid taxis are another popular private taxi service at Chennai airport. Fares have been reduced to compete with Ola and Uber.
  • The new Chennai Metro train connects Chennai airport with Chennai Central on the Blue Line. Trains run from around 6 a.m. to 11 p.m, with departures every 20 minutes during non-peak hours and every 10 minutes during peak hours (see timetable). The one-way fare is 70 rupees (see fare chart). Self-check-in counters are provided at the Airport Metro station for outgoing airline passengers.
  • There's also a suburban train station at Tirusulam, a couple of kilometers from the airport. Suburban trains run from there to Egmore Station. Travel time is around
    40 minutes.
  • Alternatively, a Metropolitan Transport Corporation bus service goes from the airport to the city center. Take bus 18A from the bus stop outside the terminal building. However, do be prepared to walk quite a distance to get there.

Where to Eat and Drink

There are plenty of coffee shops at the Chennai Airport and free drinking water is readily available. There are a lot of fast-food stands including a juice bar and KFC, but you can also sit-down at a full-service restaurant like Copper Chimney or ID in the Domestic Terminal.

Airport Lounges

Chennai airport has a lounge called the "Travel Club" with two locations in 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.

Wi-Fi and Charging Stations

Wi-Fi is available for free for up to 45 minutes in both terminals. However, you will need to provide a valid Indian phone number to use it. Charging stations can be found throughout the airport should you need to charge up your device.

Airport Tips and Tidbits

Unfortunately, phase one of the airport's redevelopment turned out to be a major disappointment for passengers. The poorly-designed new domestic and international terminals, situated about 800 meters apart, lack amenities. Shoddy workmanship also resulted in safety-issues including the collapse of glass panels, granite slabs, and false ceilings.

The terminals were to be connected by a moving walkway when they opened but this was dropped as part of cost-cutting measures. The walkway was finally completed in April 2018, and it also connects the terminals to the new Chennai Airport Metro train station.

Baggage screening at the international terminal was recently upgraded but inline baggage screening is yet to be introduced at the domestic terminal. This means that departing domestic passengers must to get their baggage screened before check-in.

Other common complaints about the airport include poor maintenance of toilets, insufficient manned immigration counters and security checkpoints, delayed baggage collection, and the use of buses to transport passengers from the aircraft to airport terminals instead of aerobridges.

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

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

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