Friday, May 30, 2008



IT’S still less than a week old, and Bangalore’s brand new international airport has received both bouquets and brickbats. Frequent travellers who’ve experienced other international airports give BT the low-down on where BIA stands.
“Though the check-in counters were good and well-manned, there were long queues just to enter the airport due to extensive screening by CISF guards. More gates need to be open with a larger deployment of security,” says brand domain specialist Harish Bijoor, who flew to Singapore from BIA on May 27.
The immigration counters, however, were a disappointment for Sandeep Wadhwa, joint managing director with a fibre board container manufacturer. Says Sandeep, who flew in from Dubai on Day 2 of BIA operations, “The immigration area has been cramped into a very small area. It is too small for an international airport.” Laila Matthew, who took the Sri Lankan Airways flight to Colombo en route to Frankfurt, says the immigration counter staff fumbled with her passport and visa. “The permanent resident visa is in German and they kept me waiting while they figured out what my visa stated. I’ve never had a problem like this at any other airport,” she says.
International travellers are pleased that there are a number of conveyor belts for baggage, but delays are still common. “When I landed at BIA close to midnight, at a time when several other flights also landed, I dreaded having to push and shove past others to get near the conveyor belt,” says Sindhu Anand, who flew in from San Francisco. But while there were several conveyor belts, she had to wait an hour to get her luggage.
With most of the retail outlets at the BIA yet to open, international travellers are yet to figure out what’s in store for them. “I flew in at 5 am and was too groggy to shop, but I did notice that most of them were not open. I did, however, see many big names among the closed shops,” says Sandeep.
Agrees Harish, “They are still getting their act together. The retail arena needs to look fuller in stock and variety.”
But Jibin George, who flew in from Changi Airport, Singapore, to BIA, was disappointed with the duty free outlets. “They have the regular tobacco, liquor, perfumes and apparel. Nothing new or exciting. In comparison, Changi even has a Formula One store,” says Jibin.
If you’re looking to grab a bite before
embarking on your journey, do not expect exceptional fare, say those who’ve seen what’s on offer. “The food and beverage options are just average. The new airport at Hyderabad has better food outlets,” says Harish, adding, “There is just too much in too little space here. One needs to invest in an expansive feel in public spaces such as airports. The Suvarnabhumi International Airport at
Bangkok and the new Hong Kong Airport are classic examples of these.”
President and CEO of a retail sector firm, Bijou Kurien, was also not impressed with the F&B selection. “Most outlets were not open and among those that were, the pizza joint seemed the most decent place to dine. The Illy cafe only serves branded water that costs Rs 300 a bottle,” says Bijou.
And though he wasn’t sure if BIA had these facilities, Jibin missed the movie and music lounges he is accustomed to at Changi. “I didn’t find gaming zones either,” he says. What Aditya Natraj, who works for a venture capital firm, found amiss was that there aren’t enough seats in the waiting areas. “Also, the restrooms in this brand new facility are badly maintained and hard to find with inadequate signages,” he says.


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