Review: Air India Maharajah Domestic Lounge, Chennai International Airport Terminal One, India


On arrival to Chennai, India we proceeded through India arrival immigration. India has this mixed category arrival situation where you have domestic passengers arriving in the same concourse area as international passengers. Domestic passengers were able to use the Domestic lines upon showing a boarding pass with the giant printed “D” on it. These lines are immediately adjacent and off to the side of to the international check in lines. This strange set up seems to occur at several airports throughout the system. 

This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air India Maharajah Domestic Lounge, Chennai Madras International Airport Terminal One, India

Connecting from International to Domestic at Chennai International Airport:

Getting back to our Back to our international arrival in India. The immigration officer checked our visas, asked us a few questions about our routing, took a digital image of us and stamped us in. At this point in the long day, it’s probably worth mentioning the adventures of getting an Indian Visa. I don’t usually use a visa handler when I get my visas at home and take matters into my own hands. This meant lining up at the Surrey, British Columbia, Canada BLS International outsourced Indian Visa office one morning. When applying for visas, sometimes you’re able to get in and out quickly without much effort or paperwork (the Indonesia consulate in Vancouver comes to mind). Instead, I arrived at 10 minutes after 8 AM opening on Saturday morning and ended up waiting 4 1/2 hours. Fortunately, from that point on, process went relatively smoothly, and my passport was mailed back to my house by courier within 14 days.

We didn’t get any instructions surrounding the transfer of our bags from Air India in Male other than the helpful “you don’t have to worry about them”, so we waited around on in the arrivals area and located our bags on the belt. We cleared customs with our bags and headed out to follow the signs for the domestic transfers.

Adding a good dose of Indian drama to the day, the Chennai Airport is in the middle of construction. The sign posting for connecting wasn’t very good, and the signs for domestic transfer led us to a dead end enclosed hall with an x ray machine that was guarded by a sole military guard. The area looked like it was once a domestic transfers area, but the entire area had been gutted down to the metal studs with bare electrical exposed, missing drywall and temporary construction lighting flooding the hall. It wasn’t in any operational shape. 

I asked the military guard where the domestic transfer was and he told me to wait. He left the area and I happened to note that the passageway that you’d typically take towards the departures concourse after you dropped your bags on the usual conveyor belt was boarded up and didn’t lead anywhere. There were times when you travel that your’ spider senses get tingly and this happened to be one of them. I was a little worried he was going to get some people to shake us down for a bribe since we weren’t in public view of the terminal since the passenger flow had been reconfigured away from this old transfer desk area. Perhaps this was unfounded, but we ended up quickly leaving the area before he got back – thinking that we could do better ourselves.

We headed outdoors and started to wander towards what looked like the departure hall. 

Finding our own way in no man’s land
Walking in between terminals in Chennai International Airport

We headed up to another terminal down a long outdoor walkway. It was a pretty desolate area underneath a viaduct accompanied with a walk past a stinky construction rubbish tip. There was an elevated subway that was under construction and not yet operational. I approached another military guard to ask for directions. We were told to head back the direction that we came (at the opposite end). It seems the building that we arrived in was in between 2 terminals in various stages of life and use. I flagged down a random golf cart driver and we loaded up our bags. After a courtesy donation and a few rupees poorer, we got dropped off at the correct terminal and were able to bag drop without any issues. The arrival experience was sort of what I expected. The stereotypes of Indian chaos were alive with the dis-organized directions. Thankfully, we had some time to get it sorted.

Arriving to Chennai International Airport Domestic Terminal One
Chennai International Airport
Air India Departures at Chennai International Airport

Locating the Air India Maharajah Lounge:

We headed up to the departures hall and checked in. After a military check of our printed itinerary, we were led into a sterile and mostly clean departures hall. There were high ceilings and plenty of space. There was a viewing gallery that appeared to be a blocked off and segregated regular entrance that someone was charging 100 Rupees for entering. Adding to the confusion was that our “domestic” Air India flight from Chennai to Delhi was departing from the “international” terminal. We bypassed the international exit customs stamping lanes using the bizarre domestic lane and found the Air India International Maharajah Lounge by Gate 11. We found the Air India Maharajah smiling at us again at the entrance. 

Air India Maharajah Lounge
Air India Maharajah Lounge

Accessing the Air India Maharajah Lounge:

We gained access thanks to class of service and we were warmly greeted by two lounge hosts wearing sari’s.

The Air India Maharajah Business Lounge is designed as the departure lounge for all Air India passengers in addition to Star Alliance Business Class travellers. Access is provided for

Air India / Star Alliance members departing on regular flights:

  • Business Class passengers
  • Economy Class Air India Flying Returns Golden Edge Club Member plus one guest
  • Air India Maharajah Club members plus two guests
  • Star Alliance Gold members plus one guest

Today’s access was granted courtesy of an Air India Business Class ticket.


Inside the Air India Maharajah Business Lounge:

We settled into a very tired but colored place. It was pretty dingy on the corners. Initially, I found it no worse than a worn United Club but after the first impressions had passed, it was a pretty rough and tired place. It was easily the most tired Star Alliance Lounge that I’ve ever been in. I can’t imagine actually ever paying to use this lounge if it was a pay per entry place. 

Air India Maharajah Lounge Space
Beige Colored Lounge Seating
Lounge Seating overlooking Lounge Reception
Lounge Seating with Food at Rear

The bathrooms in the lounge (no showers available by the way) were atrocious but what were we really expecting? I’ve had cleaner washrooms at a soccer or football stadium. Needless to say, the bathrooms here are not the high point.

Food and Beverage:

There was a small buffet on offer, featuring traditional Indian foods. I was initially a little skeptical about eating Indian foods off of hotel grounds but I needn’t had worried. The food appeared fresh and well cooked and prepared.

During our time in the lounge, we well taken care of by the hosts. They were exceptionally attentive and offered to refill drinks, suggested and recommended foods and promptly cleared plates. There wasn’t the usual disinterest on the part of the typical older flight attendants and the Air India staff genuinely appeared to enjoy their jobs.

There was also a tired looking bar area that was completely shuttered. As before throughout our Air India journey, there was no alcohol. Drinks were limited to tinned coca colas’ and orange Fanta’s. Of course, there wasn’t any ice and it probably wouldn’t have been safe for us to drink anyway. 

A Shuttered Bar Area
A Bar that had seen better days

The Bottom Line: The Air India Maharajah Lounge Chennai

The bottom line: a pretty shockingly tired international lounge masquerading as a room to hang out in, with a television and quasi-room temperature drinks. I wouldn’t attempt to get here early for the sole purpose of visiting. The closed bar made me feel like I was a youngster in my parents’ basement before I was old enough to drink. The bright spot was that the staff were exceptionally attentive and aiming to please. I felt like I was being taken care of by two mothers and made to feel at home.

If you’ve visited the Air India Maharajah Business Lounge in Chennai, did you have a similar experience?

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