New Bangalore airport finally takes off Friday

May 21st, 2008 - 7:07 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, May 21 (IANS) The much awaited Bengaluru international airport at Devanahalli, about 40 km from this IT hub, will become functional from early friday morning. State-run Air-India will fly the first aircraft to Singapore a minute into Friday (00:01 hours IST of May 23).

Around the same time, the city airport, which has been part of Bangalore’s bustling life for over seven decades, will shut down for commercial operations though it will remain functional for VVIP flights and chartered services. Operated by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the airport will also be used for defence services.

“All domestic and international flights departing Friday but arriving late Thursday after 20:00 IST will land at the new airport and airlines operating services around that time have been directed to inform their passengers about the switch-over from the old airport,” a top airport official told IANS Wednesday.

Built at a cost of Rs.25 billion ($625 million) in record 36 months by Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL), a consortium of private-public partnership, the greenfield airport will have a soft launch, as Karnataka is in the midst of assembly poll and the code of conduct will be in force till the poll process is completed May 28.

“Once a popular government is formed after the poll, the airport will be formally inaugurated in the presence of the state and central ministers on a suitable date in June. Barring the official event, the airport will be fully functional offering full-fledged services for domestic and international passengers,” the official said.

The airport has been ridden with controversies, litigations, protests and cost over-runs. Its much-awaited launch was put off twice in the last two months, on March 28 and May 11, due to delays in getting and installing imported equipment for the air traffic control (ATC) tower and imparting mandatory training for its newly recruited staff.

Though the Karnataka High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court directed the central and state governments to re-negotiate with BIAL the closure of HAL airport keeping in view public interest and the connectivity problem, the civil aviation ministry, Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Airport Authority of India (AAI) had given the final go-ahead to BIAL for opening its new airport May 23, as there was no legal stay against the launch.

The courts’ intervention came in response to a spate of public interest petitions seeking direction to continue operations from the HAL airport for short-haul flights.

With Bangalore expanding exponentially in all directions since the mid-1980s, the HAL airport’s location is considered to be in the heart of the city, as it is just six km from downtown and 10 km from the state secretariat.

As Bangalore became India’s IT hub and the world’s back-office for outsourcing and off-shoring, HAL airport witnessed a phenomenal increase in domestic and international passenger traffic, choking its limited capacity.

In spite of infrastructure constraints and traffic congestion, the city airport has been handling about 320 services a day to fly in and out 35,000-40,000 passengers daily.

From Friday all that will be history, as the new airport begins its operations amid protests against closure of the HAL airport and concern over connectivity to Devanahalli through the city’s notorious gridlock.

Perhaps for the first time, leading lights of India’s IT and biotech sectors such as Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Infosys director T.V. Mohandas Pai and Mico-Bosch India joint managing director M. Lakshminarayan took to streets last week flagging placards with slogans against the HAL closure.

The main concern for the frequent fliers among the about seven million Bangaloreans is the choked connectivity to and from the new airport from the city.

The IT-centric Electronics City and Whitefield are located 80-60 km away from Devanahalli in the southern and eastern suburbs of the city.

The approach road to the new airport is one of the busiest highways (NH 11) in the state, with hundreds of inter-state buses and trucks plying through the day, and especially in the night when most of the international flights operate.

The minimum cab fare to the airport from the city centre is about Rs.800-1,000 which will make flying to short-distant destinations such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Mangalore and Panjim in Goa expensive.

There is also fear that many low-cost and no-frill airlines may not find many takers for their short-haul flights.

In addition, though domestic passengers have been exempted from paying the user development fee (UDF) for the first three months, their international counterparts will have to cough up Rs.1,070 for departing from the new airport.

The new airport will be operated for 30 years by the consortium consisting of Siemens Project Ventures, Larsen & Toubro, Unique Zurich Airport, the Karnataka government and AAI under build-operate-and-transfer (bot) model.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |