Passenger traffic hits air pocket at new Bangalore airport

November 12th, 2008 - 10:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Nov 12 (IANS) Global financial meltdown and crisis in the Indian civil aviation sector have drastically reduced passenger traffic at the six-month-old new international airport in Bangalore, a top airport official said Wednesday.The airport has handled just four million passengers since flight operations began in May, forcing the airport management to slash passenger traffic forecast for the year from 13 million to 9.2 million.

“The air traffic has dipped drastically because of the current global economic recession and losses faced by the Indian civil aviation sector,” Bengaluru International Airport Ltd (BIAL) chief executive Albert Brunner told reporters here.

BIAL has also suffered Rs.1.91 billion loss due to default in payment by various airlines and non-levy of user development fee (UDF) on domestic passengers, he said.

The financial meltdown and low passenger traffic has prompted BIAL to defer expansion plans by two years, Brunner said. The expansion plans included a second runway.

The 9.2-million passenger traffic forecast is less than the 9.8 million passengers handled by Bangalore’s old airport last year. The old airport belonging to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd was closed as the concession agreement between the central government and BIAL bars any airport operating within 150 km of the new one.

“We’re struggling to keep ourselves floating, mostly because we’re yet to get permission from the civil aviation ministry to levy UDF from domestic passengers. Moreover, several airlines are yet to pay us, amounting to Rs.590 million,” Brunner said.

Every month, the airport is suffering Rs.220 million loss because of absence of UDF, he said.

The BIAL wants to fix Rs.675 UDF on every domestic passenger using the airport. The UDF for international passenger is Rs.955, which BIAL has been collecting since May.

“Because of the economic meltdown and losses incurred by BIAL, we have stalled all our future expansion plans for next two years,” Brunner said.

BIAL is a public-private initiative led by Germany’s Siemens AG and India’s Larsen and Toubro Ltd. The airport was built in 33 months at a cost of Rs.26.4 billion.

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