Saturday, December 27, 2008

Airport woes to continue into 2009

Airport woes to continue into 2009
S Praveen Dhaneshkar

As 2008 comes to a close, it will be remembered as an eventful year for both the HAL airport and its successor, the BIAL at Devanahalli.

But the latter could well see its cup of woes get carried into 2009 as well. The new greenfield airport, built at an investment of Rs 2,470 crores commenced operations on May 24, 2008, heralding a new chapter in airport infrastructure, and indeed the history of Bangalore.

The BIAL came into being admist a crucial time even as the civil aviation industry in the country faced its worst phase ever reeling under the global economic meltdown with the ATF (Aviation Turbine Fuel) going up, massive retrenchment by private airlines and cancellation of flights, due to high operating costs, not to mention dues to airport operators from airlines, mounting to crores of rupees,

Apart from being compared with the GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL), aka Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad that opened on March 23, 2008, the BIAL was devoid of any opening ceremony and also had to face flak for not incorporating any local flavour in its architecture, with its promoters who hold 74 percent stake being accused by all and sundry of constructing a airport, that resembles a huge shed, that has already reached its saturation point,

The closure of the HAL airport for commercial opertions too raised a storm in 2008 from those advocating a ‘Two Airport’ concept, with a view to retain short-haul domestic flights from HAL, while the BIAL remained adament citing the signing of the concessional agreement, with the Ministry of Civil Aviation that gave it the sole monopoly of operating a sole airport in Bangalore. The issue sadly, remains unresolved with the High Court of Karnataka, continuing to hear PIL’s (Public Interest Litigations) on the issue.


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