Saturday, February 25, 2006

Brunner directs operations of Bangalore airport

Brunner directs operations of Bangalore airport


Switzerland's Albert Brunner is a patient man as he orchestrates development of a much-needed international airport in the Indian city of Bangalore.

Brunner, who used to be with the company that operates Zurich airport, Unique, has battled Indian bureaucracy for many years but at last construction has begun on an airport that has huge potential.

Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka, has a population of six-and-a-half million – not far off that of the whole of Switzerland. Karnataka itself boasts 55 million.

"It is one of the fastest-growing cities in Asia," Brunner says. "It is considered the Silicon Valley of India, the city of the future and more importantly for us it has an ideal geographic location to become a regional hub."

Brunner became the CEO of Bangalore International Airport because Unique has a 17 per cent stake in the project and will give support in future operations.

"If you look at the airports around the world, you see that Zurich airport is always around the top in terms of passenger friendliness. In terms of a well-operated airport we think we can contribute better [to this project] than many," he tells swissinfo.

"We definitely bring in knowledge of project management and airport operation. We bring into India something that hasn't been here before."

Red tape

Brunner, who has been in India for four years, speaks of having to cut much red tape with the authorities at central government and state level to bring movement in a project conceived back in 1993.

The airport should have opened at the end of 2005 but delays have meant that the first departures and arrivals have now been scheduled for April 2, 2008. Costs of the development currently run at SFr410 ($316 million).

Initially, four-and-a-half million passengers a year were expected to use the airport but because of the strong growth in the civil aviation sector in India and the delays, almost seven million passengers are now foreseen.

While construction is in full swing, the authorities have realised that the project is too small, so the challenge now is to increase it without delaying the opening date.

But there is enough land to increase capacity to up to 40 million passengers a year, more than twice the current flow in Zurich.

On the opening day, there will be one runway and one terminal at the new location, which is about 30 kilometres from the city centre. This will be increased to two of both.

Albert Brunner is making a dream come true for Bangalore
Albert Brunner is making a dream come true for Bangalore (swissinfo)

Airport city

The project also includes a so-called "airport city" which is unique in India. This is being reserved for non-aviation related activities, including a hotel, office blocks and business centres.

April 2, 2008 is not so far away and Brunner knows that there are many issues still outstanding.

Concessionaires will have to be ready with catering facilities, aviation fuel, ground handling and cargo handling.

The new airport also has to integrate all the government organisations at the same time – the police, security, customs and immigration.

"[There are] endless discussions I can tell you. And last but not least we have to market our airport, so it's much, much more than a construction project."

Brunner describes the new airport as a long-awaited dream of the people of Bangalore and Karnataka.

"In Switzerland and also in Europe in general, an airport is not a dream. It's more or less a nightmare for many people. However, here it is a dream.

"It's a once-in-a-life chance to have such a project. It's a huge challenge with a lot of frustrations but a lot of pleasures," he says.


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