Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It’s 4 days since BIA took off. While teething troubles plague the airport, critical infrastructure issues have come to the fore now. But BIAL insists it is functioning smoothly. Anshul Dhamija reports

Bangalore: Four days into operations, the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) is still grappling with the city’s robust air traffic.

Though the lack of onsite manpower and delays at every step could be sighed away as teething troubles, serious infrastructure issues are hampering airlines’ business.
International airlines that were waiting for the BIA to open, after suffering HAL’s limited space, are now applauding the latter’s efficiency and facilities.

For one, international airlines, which fly widebody aircraft, unlike domestic carriers, cannot park their planes even if one aerobridge is free. Reason: although BIA has eight aerobridges, only 4-5 widebody aircraft can park because the space in between hasn’t been accounted for.
As the BIA has a common parking area for international and domestic aircraft, incoming international airlines have to wait for two aerobridges to free up to park at one of them.

On May 25, a leading South-East Asian airline, after landing, had to wait for close to 45 minutes in the taxi-bay area before two aerobridges fell vacant. Due to this, other incoming and outgoing aircraft were delayed.

“I don’t know how BIA claims to be an international airport when basic infrastructure has not been put in place. Even though HAL had only three dedicated aerobridges for international flights, one could park wide-body aircraft next to each other,” said an official of a leading international airline. What’s hurting the airlines is that idling on the taxiway is burning up precious fuel. Further, BIA charges Rs 10,000 for the use of its aerobridges for a maximum of 90 minutes, something the old HAL airport never charged for. With constant delays, airlines have to shell out lot more money.

Besides this, airline officials are also seeing red over delays in baggage claim.
“Baggage drop-off points at the terminal building are so narrow that only one tractor can unload containers at a time. During peak-hour traffic, one finds more than six tractors, carrying luggage of different airlines, lined up one after another, causing delays of over an hour,’’ said an airline official.

“In our daily reports to headquarters, we have written that delays out of Bangalore are not in the airline’s control, but due to the lack of infrastructure at the new airport,” said a senior international airline official who has to send a report card explaining delays.
Since the airport has opened, TOI has received over 10 complaints per day, in the form of letters, emails and telephone calls, from passengers complaining about the lack of professionalism shown by BIAL.

In an SMS, one passenger said, “BIA is the most horrible new airport I’ve seen in 15 years. I’m seriously considering filing PIL against this unprofessional airport operator.”

Meeting on the cards

With airlines getting agitated over delays at the new airport, senior domestic and international airline officials are considering a one-on-one talk with BIA’s promoters.

Sources said the meeting will focus on the lack of infrastructure at the new airport. “We need to sit down with BIAL and ask them how we (the airlines) should cope with the dismal infrastructure. The airport must be upgraded at the earliest to ease the delays,’’said an airline source.


BIA’s infamous air-traffic control (ATC) tower is causing a lot of heartburn to airlines. After facing malfunctions on the first day of the airport’s take off, halting airtraffic movement for over 60 minutes, the ATC continues to cause delays. The crucial flight-plan link terminals, which communicate a departing aircraft’s flight path to onward airports, shuts down often. BIA’s ATC is also having problems communicating with the ATC at the Chennai airport. According to airline officials, it takes 30-45 minutes for BIA’s ATC to communicate and receive responses from Chennai’s ATC. There are over 22 daily flights between Chennai and Bangalore per day. Moreover, South-East Asian airlines have to get a permit from Chennai airport ATC as their flight path crosses its airspace.

Everything is fine, says BIAL

Bangalore: The promoters of the BIA have responded to the issues raised by airlines, denying that infrastructure problems exist.

In an e-mail to TOI, BIAL said, “The new airport has four aerobridges for wide-body aircraft. But wide-body aircraft also function from remote parking positions like it happens the world over. Normally, we do not have more than four widebody aircraft at the same time (within a timespan of 1.5-2 hours).”

With regard to the delay in baggage due to space constraints at baggage drop-off points, BIAL said, “This cannot be true as the route to the baggage break-up area has four lanes — two each for entry and exit. There were initial glitches with the ground-handling process, which, in turn, had an impact on the overall operations chain, causing delay.”

On issues relating to the constant malfunctioning of BIA’s ATC, the airport operator clarified that “the ATC is functioning well. The initial glitches that we faced were due to ground-handling issues. A special task force is identifying and addressing any issues with regard to operations. We have taken action to ensure better ground-handling.”


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