Friday, September 26, 2008

‘We’ll make BIA the south hub’

‘We’ll make BIA the south hub’
Anshul Dhamija & Sujit John | TNN

Bangalore: Most of those who have seen the new airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad say the latter is superior in most respects. This has hurt Bangaloreans. But Albert Brunner, boss of the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL), assures us that once the second terminal is done, that image would change and Bangalore would be the gateway city to south India.
“We started the process of planning for the Bangalore airport about two years before Hyderabad did. So we couldn’t anticipate the huge growth Bangalore was to see subsequently,” he said, adding that the company is in the process of developing a plan to ensure that Bangalore pips rival southern cities Hyderabad and Chennai in attracting airlines and customers.
“We have to build an airport that will be the best in south India. We are not here to compete with South East Asian airports in which governments pump in billions of dollars to create style symbols and not worry about profitability,” he said.
He added that BIA is not seeking to compete with airports in Mumbai and New Delhi either, as both cities cater to different markets and have their own positions in the Indian aviation market. The work on the second terminal and runway is expected to start next year and be complete in about three years.
Brunner admitted that the existing airport terminal could have been better utilized in some respects. “Too much space has probably been given to retail. We are currently evaluating what can be done to rectify that,” said Brunner.
BIAL is also talking to Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines to set up maintenance, repair and overhaul facility (MRO), which would enhance BIA’s position to be a southern hub for airlines.
The airport has set aside close to 100 acres of land for the MRO. The airport was previously in talks with Lufthansa Technik to set up an MRO, but that did not take off.
Financially, BIAL is taking a beating with losses amounting to almost Rs 22 crore a month. “We thought the losses would be lower, but with the overall aviation slowdown, which has resulted in a 16% dip in domestic traffic, and the fact that the domestic user development fee is still not being charged, our losses are rising,” said Brunner.
He said the UDF was absolutely essential. “Only that will convince our shareholders to bring in more money for the second phase of development,” he said.
CM’s remark on potholes was unfair: Brunner
BIAL chief Albert Brunner said he was disturbed by Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s recent comments about the airport’s standards. “I tried to meet him recently to understand his concerns, but the CM was too busy with the issue of attacks on churches,” Brunner said. BIAL officials also said it was unfair of the CM to have said there are potholes on the link road to the airport. “If there’s one road in Bangalore that has no potholes, it’s the airport link road,” an official said.


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