New Bangalore airport opens to traffic sans fanfare

May 24th, 2008 - 2:42 am ICT by admin  

Bangalore, May 24 (IANS) The much-awaited Bengaluru International Airport finally opened late Friday to commercial operations, with an Air India Airbus A320 (IC 609) from Mumbai being the first to land at 22.37 p.m., carrying about 110 passengers and crew. The same aircraft took off as IC 957 to Singapore 15 minutes into Saturday (00:15 IST), with 80 percent of its capacity (144 seats) filled.

The inaugural departure, however, was delayed by 10 minutes due to operational reasons. The original departure was scheduled at 00:05 IST.

Captain Ishwar Pal and co-pilot Gourav Jaggi were behind the controls of the Airbus to cruise for 210 minutes and land at Singapore by 06:15 local time.

The Rs 25-billion ($625 million) greenfield airport is situated at Devanahalli, about 40 km from India’s IT hub. It is surrounded by greenery and farmlands, with the historic Nandi Hills forming the backdrop.

After three failed starts in the last two months, the promoter operator - Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) — had to settle down for a soft launch, as the Election Commission’s model code of conduct in poll-mode Karnataka is in force till May 28, though final phase of voting ended Thursday and counting is slated for May 25.

Contrary to earlier announcements, three aircraft of private carrier Jet Airways flying into Bangalore from Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad did not land at the swanky new airport. Instead, they chose to land at the old one.

“Once a popular government is formed after the polls, the airport will be formally inaugurated in the presence of VIPs from the state and central government in June. Barring the official event, the airport is fully functional, offering world-class facilities for domestic and international passengers,” an elated BIAL chief executive officer (CEO) Albert Bruner told IANS in the arrival lounge.

After AI take-off, wide-bodied jets of Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airlines and Lufthansa were waiting in the parking bays for departure. They will be taxied to the aero-bridges for take-off.

“I have been waiting for this moment for many years. This is the happiest moment in my life. All of us here are very much excited here. It is also a proud moment for all Bangaloreans,” a much-relieved Brunner said, with a glint in his eyes.

Marred by controversies, litigations, protests and cost over-runs, the much-awaited launch was put off thrice (March 28, May 11 & 23) due to delays in setting up the air traffic control, training operators, government clearances and finally the poll panel’s directive to it put-off by a day.

With the opening up of the new airport, the 50-year-old state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airport in the city was shut for civilian traffic despite protests by corporate honchos against its closure.

As Bangalore became India’s IT hub and 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 and around.

The new airport has been built in record 36 months under public-private partnership to handle about 10-12 million passengers per annum till 2012.

The consortium consists of Unique Zurich Airport, Siemens Project Ventures and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as private promoters, while Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Karnataka government as state-owned promoters.

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