Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Is this an airport or a glorified bus stand?

Is this an airport or a glorified bus stand?
The Times of India

Bangalore: People bumping into each other, baggage lying all over the place, passengers sitting on the floor — this is no scene at the local bus station. We are actually talking about HAL airport.

With several new airlines starting operations from Bangalore and some existing ones increasing their frequency, there is a flight taking off or landing every 10 minutes. On an average, there are 100 passengers per flight. At both the domestic and international terminal, after going through immigration and customs, passengers are often forced to sit on the floor because there are not enough chairs.

With the airport authorities barely equipped to handle such huge volume of people, the airport now resembles a sophisticated bus stand.

Passenger feedback is rather muted. “Yes, we are happy that there are so many flights from Bangalore, but this is not what we expect of its airport,’’ said Sriram, who flew into Bangalore recently.

The airport handles 170 flights including an average of 16 international flights departing and arriving every day. There are over 10,000 passengers at the arrival hall and a similar number at the departure hall. “It has become a glorified bus stand.

So many new airlines are coming in. Kingfisher Airlines is joining the bandwagon and SpiceJet is scheduled to launch its operations on the Bangalore-Delhi sector from June 13. Air One is due to commence operations by mid-August. The load at the airport is too much to handle’’. It is no different at the parking lot, which can accommodate just 300 cars at any given point of time. There is no space to expand it. The cargo that goes through the parking area also creates problems for movement of passengers.

Says an official, “The airport badly needs additional infrastructure. But authorities are in a dilemma. With the Devanahalli International airport on the cards, how much of expansion should they undertake”.

The expansion within the existing terminal building has its limitation, says a senior Airports Authority of India (AAI) official. However, a plan has been drawn up and the proposal will be executed, beginning next month. Mornings and evenings used to always be the peak hours. But the airport is no longer inactive during the afternoons, as there is continuous movement of flights. Domestic flight departures used to wind up at 10 pm, but now it goes on till 11.30 pm.

However an official said: “The airport is well geared up for the situation. There is no need to panic. The difficulty level will not increase. But yes, beyond this we can’t take space.

When the last expansion of the airport was undertaken in 1999, the average growth rate of airports was taken into account, but now the growth rate in Bangalore has tripled.

“But four years down the line, this airport may not be required.”


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