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Rediff.com  » Business » Bangalore's new airport set to take off

Bangalore's new airport set to take off

Last updated on: May 23, 2008 15:14 IST

As he walked towards the entrance wearing a grey tie on a white shirt and black trousers, one of the four police personnel on guard stepped towards him. But the man displayed his identity card to all the four and smiled at them.

As he walked inside, the youngest of the personnel asked his senior: "Sir, who is this foreigner?" Pat came the reply: "He is the man who built this new airport. He is Albert Brunner. Get his face etched in your memory."

Inside the swanky glass-and-steel terminal building, the spotlight was on Brunner. "Welcome to the new Bengaluru International Airport, we are ready to open our wonderful airport tomorrow," he announced.

On Friday midnight, an Indian carrier will fly the first aircraft from the much-awaited airport to Singapore.

The announcement, indeed, was a moment of triumph for this chief executive officer of Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), who has battled several odds in adding the new infrastructure to the southern city.

 "But now everything is in place," said Brunner, adding "the masterplan of the airport has been developed to fulfil the need for an operationally-efficient and passenger-friendly airport for Bangalore. The airport can handle 12 million passengers per annum and the land at our disposal allows us to develop the airport to a capacity of about 50 million passengers per year."

"It will take about 60-80 minutes from anywhere in Bangalore to the new airport," he said. Except for completion of work on a loop that would facilitate traffic flow towards Hyderabad, connectivity to the airport has ceased to be a grey area. The three modes of transport to get to the airport are taxies, personal cars and buses.

While Merucabs and Easycabs take care of the taxi operations at the airport, Hertz and Akbar Travels rent out luxury cars. State-run Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has introduced 40 Vayu Vajra air-conditioned Volvo buses on nine different routes in the city to ferry people up to the terminal building of the airport. The fare in these buses ranges between Rs 70 and Rs 200. BMTC will also ply 100 Suvarna non-AC buses to the airport.

For those who use their personal cars, parking is not a problem at the new airport. Brunner said: "Land side traffic is really difficult to handle at the airport, so we have given a lot of thought to the parking system. Our airport can provide parking for 2,000 cars."

Unlike the existing HAL airport, where free parking at the departure terminal is just for 90 seconds, it is 10 minutes at the new airport. If a car is parked for two hours, the owner has to pay Rs 40 and Rs 20 for additional hour thereafter. Parking for 24 hours is Rs 300. The airport also provides for valet parking service for Rs 150 and porter service for Rs 70 (for three bags).

From the parking lot, it is a less-than-a-minute walk into the terminal building, which bears semblance to the glass-house at the famous Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in Bangalore. Spread over 71,000 sq m, the building can accommodate 2,733 passengers per hour.

The terminal building provides free Wi-Fi access to the laptop users. Apart from baby care facilities for mothers, the three-level building also houses a clinic and a pharmacy run by the Columbia Asia Hospital. The airport has 53 check-in counters, 18 self check-in kiosks and provides for a seamless and single check-in process.

"Passengers do not have to queue up for baggage screening before check-in at the new airport. This is an international foolproof baggage screening process," Brunner added.

There are 18 shopping outlets and 15 food and beverages stalls in the terminal building. The international departure section houses one of the largest duty-free outlets showcasing leading international brands, and the Oberoi lounge which has dedicated areas for business and first-class passengers with a seating capacity of 100 people.

"But the most interesting feature of the international departure lounge is the coffee served by Paris-based Illy Cafe, which makes a debut into the Indian market," F&B operator HMSHost director (operations - India) JVS Rana said.

The airport has already generated a lot of interest among the airliner operators, who have drafted their staff before the inauguration as part of the familiarisation drive. Jet Airways deputy general manager (airport services) S Ravichandar said: "We are quite enthused about the facilities here. We are looking forward to the inauguration as the first aircraft to land here will be from our fleet."

However, controversies are far from over for Brunner and company. For, BIAL's insistence on closing down the HAL airport has been questioned in the court by the city's IT/BT head honchos who are citing time and cost constraints with regard to short-haul flights. The latter claim that BIAL is short on capacity utilisation.

Sporting a smile, Brunner said all that he wanted Bangaloreans to do immediately was to drive to BIAL to see for themselves the world-class facility.

BS Reporter in Bangalore
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