Mahima Kaul checks into India’s first transit hotel at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Who hasn’t had to deal with the discomfort of shaving in an airport lounge, or disrupted sleep from lying in a less-than-private daybed? Indira Gandhi International Airport’s Terminal 3 is offering a way out (or in, depending on how you look at it) for those passing through New Delhi.
The 93-room, four-star Eaton Smart, New Delhi Airport Transit Hotel is the first of its kind in the country and is accessible from the fifth floor of Terminal 3. It’s designed so both domestic and international travellers can have access to it and—importantly—neither group has to pass through Customs and Immigration to get inside. The rooms have the basic amenities one expects of a hotel room—a mini bar, LCD TV and a well-appointed bathroom. You can watch flights land and take off from rooms 410-428 if you’re flying within the country; and from rooms 202-224 if you’re an international passenger.
For those new to the concept of transit hotels, here’s a quick explanation: they are hotels within an airport’s secure area, designed so passengers can access hotel facilities without the hassle of going into the city. Rooms are typically booked for four to six hours, though you can book one for longer.
The world’s first such hotel—a Hilton (now no longer in service)—opened in1959 at San Francisco International Airport. Over the years, these hotels have come up at other airports across the world. Most transit hotels offer services that a traveller will appreciate—comfortable rooms,
a restaurant, gym and, in some cases, a spa or swimming pool. Singapore’s Ambassador Transit Hotel also has a salon; Kuala Lumpur’s Airside Transit Hotel has steam rooms and sauna baths; Seoul’s Incheon Airport Transit Hotel has Korean, Japanese, and Continental restaurants; and Dubai International Hotel has two business centres.
Transit hotels are popular because of their obvious convenience. If you’re flying international, leaving an airport requires a visa and you won’t have one if you haven’t planned for it. Flying within a country too presents issues—hailing cabs, lugging baggage and time spent commuting. Often, for the few hours of rest it affords, it may not seem worth the effort.
Many airlines, including Jet Airways and Thai Airways suggest a transit hotel. The added perk of booking into Eaton Smart is that an employee will meet you—especially if you’re elderly or are travelling with children—as you exit the aircraft, and escort you to the hotel.
Once you’ve settled in, visit the Essentials Spa, which offers therapies focusing on soothing jetlag and easing muscle cramps caused by long stints of sitting in an airline seat. (My deep-tissue massage worked like a charm.) Standard private treatment rooms come with their own bathrooms. For those just looking for a quick shower, the hotel has a large bathroom called an Aqua Pod, which comes with rain showers. The hotel’s restaurant T Lounge serves Indian and Continental food.
There are difficulties to expect, of course. Airport security dictates that you will not have access to your checked-in luggage. Also, depending on where you deplane, you might have to go through three rounds of security before reaching the reception.
That said, for many passengers, the promise of a clean bed and private bathrooms will be reason enough to brave the metal detectors—especially if the alternative is a crowded and uncomfortable airline lounge. Eaton Smart, New Delhi Airport Transit Hotel, Terminal 3, Indira Gandhi International Airport(www.newdelhiairport.in)
FIVE GREAT TRANSIT HOTELS WORLDWIDE Airside Transit Hotel, Kuala Lumpur This 80-room hotel boasts a fitness centre equipped with a steam room and sauna. (www.klairporthotel.com)
Incheon Airport Transit Hotel, Seoul A reasonably-priced hotel with nine restaurants and a business centre. (www.airgardenhotel.com)
Dubai International Hotel Located inside Terminals 1 and 3 of Dubai International Airport, this massive hotel has 341 rooms and two business centres. (www.dih-dca.com)
Ambassador Transit Hotel, Singapore On Level 3 in the Departure Transit Area, this hotel has a pool, salon and five restaurants. (www.harilelahospitality.com)
YOTEL, Amsterdam All ‘cabins’ at this Schiphol Airport hotel come with free WiFi and a workstation. (www.yotel.com)