It may not have the glamour of a Bollywood set, but the upgrade at the airport serving India’s commercial capital has certainly given it a new lease of life
The name might be a bit of a mouthful, but Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has won over many regular travellers who had to put up with cramped and grubby conditions when it was called Sahar International before a makeover greatly improved the lot of passengers.
Helping to get things moving was the privatisation of CSIA and the appointment, in May 2006, of a consortium called Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL). Led by GVK, Airports Company South Africa and Bidvest, MIAL successfully transformed Mumbai into a modern hub • in the nick of time too • as India’s economic boom has see air travel rocket. In 2009-2010, CSIA handled 25.6 million passengers.
The hub, the second biggest in India after New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International, has seen continuous and consistent upgrades since 2006 and the MIAL masterplan allows the eventual handling of 40 million passengers. Its ambitious projects also include the merging of the separate international and domestic terminals (which were, in fact, separate airports) into one entity.
In the meantime both terminals have been refurbished and expanded in the case of T1, and shopping facilities are now the best they have ever been. For duty free shops look for the distinctive white on red DFS logo to find the typical international liquor, tobacco and perfume selections: there are two stores in international departures at gates 6-7 and 12-13, and also in arrivals east and west.
The international departures area also has a nice Indian retail offer. Casa Pashma is the place for luxurious pashmina and cashmere accessories and in nearby Esbeda you could find yourself a matching handbag. Krishna Pearls’ two shops would allow you to complete the look, whether it’s pearls or jewellery you are after, or there is Hemi’s, which has a similar choice of products. High-end fashion is catered for at the Lotus House.
For Indian artisan and craft products head to the two Little India stores. The brand has been around since 1974 and sells a range of authentic Indian merchandise from artefacts to gifts and accessories. Meanwhile the shoe house Pavers England (but made in Chennai), also has several successful stores at the airport as does crystal and accessories retailer Crystal Mirage. For international brands you can explore Samsonite and WHSmith.
Across the three sections that make up T1 (T1a, T1b and T1c) the stores are a bit hit and miss. Least exciting is T1a with just seven stores two of which are news and books outlets called Media Mart but it also houses Natraj Jewellers and Neckties and More plus Esbeda, Samsonite and Pavers, while the other two have a more reasonable selection to while away your time.
In T1b departures there are 10 stores and they include men’s formal clothing from JK Fashions, diamonds from Gili World, and leather handbags and accessories from Da Milano. Croma sells electronics items. In T1c, the choice of nine stores seems small but is probably the best mix of the lot. There is a William Penn writing instruments shop, The Bombay Store for all sorts of gift ideas, high quality leathergoods from Hidesign, and Parcos which sells premium perfume brands. Austrian crystal house Swarovski is also here and so is Swiss watch retailer Ethos.
The lack of international branded stores makes Chhatrapati Shivaji stand out from other international hubs, but that is the very thing that also makes it a refreshingly different airport shopping offer.
Mumbai Airport fact file:
- Passenger traffic FY 2009/10: 25.6 million
- Airlines: Close to 50, of which the biggest (by number of routes) are Jet Airways, Air India, Kingfisher Airlines, SpiceJet, IndiGo, JetLite, GoAir, Air India Express
- Of note: In 2008, less than half of all arriving flights were on time! (Source: Forbes magazine)
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