New Bangalore airport set for soft launch, finally

May 23rd, 2008 - 8:18 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, May 23 (IANS) The Bengaluru international airport, 40 km from India’s IT hub, is set for a soft launch five minutes (00:05 IST) into Saturday, when state-run Air India will fly the first aircraft to Singapore. Built at an escalated cost of Rs.25 billion ($625 million) by the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) consortium, the greenfield airport is beginning commercial operations after three false starts in the last two months due to adverse factors beyond its control.

“Though AI’s Airbus A320 (IC 957) will be the inaugural flight to Singapore from the new airport, a domestic flight of private carrier Jet Airways from Mumbai will be the first to land at 21:45 IST followed by two more Jet flights from Delhi and Hyderabad in a hour’s span,” a BIAL official told IANS Friday.

Domestic and international flights departing early Saturday but arriving late Friday after 21:00 IST will land at the new airport and airlines have been directed to inform their passengers about the switch over from the old airport.

The airport promoters (BIAL) are compelled to keep the launch operation low-key without fanfare, as the Election Commission’s model code of conduct in poll-mode Karnataka will be in force till May 28, though final voting was completed Thursday and counting is slated for May 25.

“Once a popular government is formed after the poll, 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 will be fully functional, offering world class facilities for domestic and international passengers,” the official noted.

Marred by controversies, litigations, protests and cost over-runs, the much-awaited launch was put-off thrice (March 28, May 11 and 23) due to delays in installing the imported equipment for the air traffic control (ATC) tower, government clearances and EC’s permission.

With the opening up of the swanky new airport, the five-decade-old state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airport in the city will be shut for civilian traffic despite protests by corporate honchos of the new economy 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 Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Karnataka State Industrial Investment Development Corporation (KSIIDC) are state-owned promoters.

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