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Friday woes for Bengaluru International Airport

BIAL, the promoter of Bengaluru International Airport, has been making steady progress in streamlining operations, and increasing functionality and usability at airport, especially in the non-passenger areas, but BIAL had a litany of woes yesterday, which made for a terrible Friday, and left me shaking my head, commiserating with BIAL.

First, the Karnataka High Court ruled that the airport is a public institution, which has other ramifications for BIAL.

On a petition filed by Flemingo Duty Free Shops Limited of Mumbai challenging BIAL not considering their expression of interest to set up duty-free shops at the international airport, a division Bench, headed by Justice V Gopala Gowda, held that BIAL is an entity which comes under Article 12 of the Constitution and is subject to writ jurisdiction, consequently quashed the contract awarded to duty-free shops at the airport.

BIAL had said that as it was purely a private company, its actions were not subject to writ jurisdiction.

The court, while nullifying the contract given by the airport to Nuance Group AG of Switzerland for setting up of these shops, asked BIAL to redo the process from the expression of interest stage and complete it within 45 days.

This is a repeat of the June ruling of the Mumbai High Court against MIAL, the operator of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. In that case too, Flemingo was the petitioner.

No doubt, the Supreme Court, is the next stop for this saga.

Second, at around 4pm, passengers faced a harrowing day at the airport, when the servers handling the check-in for Jet Airways and Kingfisher crashed. These two airlines handle over 65% of the total traffic at Bangalore, and Friday 4pm is probably one of the highest periods in the week. Passenger queues immediately built-up, as did tempers and angst.

As per the Deccan Chronicle

“But after the servers crashed, the two airliners’ started issuing boarding passes manually. The manual ticketing was time-consuming. Passengers protested against the long delays. Additional staff were deputed to handle the ticketing and the situation was soon brought under control. But it took an hour to get the systems up and running,” sources said.

Congrats to everyone in reacting to the situation and resolving it quickly.

As if this was not enough, more trouble came in the form of a repeat strike by the drivers of Meru Cabs, who had gone on strike earlier this week.

As per the Deccan Chronicle

In addition, passengers arriving at BIA found there were no cabs to take them into the city after drivers of Meru cab services called a snap stir and suspended services, for the second time this week. Many passengers were seen boarding the Volvo bus service to the city. The drivers, had been assured there would be a revision in the stipulated daily collection when they had a meeting with the management last week.

According to that arrangement, the company provides the drivers with cars while the drivers pay the company Rs 900 per day irrespective of their revenue. This rate was revised upwards to Rs 1,200 from December 1 which upset the drivers.

The meeting to resolve differences on Friday was inconclusive, a Meru cab driver said. “Not only has the company increased daily fees, it has added 250 cars to the existing fleet of 500 which has affected our business. This angered us and we called for strike. We will resume only after our demands are met,” said Krishna Murthy, a driver.

When contacted. a Meru company spokesperson said all Meru services are temporarily suspended and services would resume soon. He declined to comment on the deadlock with the drivers. Meru is a major operator at the airport and has bagged more than 50 percent of the transport business.

I remind passengers, that there are two more taxi operators at the airport, and the wonderful BMTC Vayu Vajra Volvo bus service. There is no need to panic. Just click on the “BIA Bus and Taxi” link on the top menu for full details.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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