Last night, as Easter Sunday came to an end, a traffic jam began at Bengaluru International Airport (BIA), which exposed the weakness of having only four “contact stands” (aero-bridge equipped gates) at the new Bengaluru International Airport, capable of handling wide-body aircraft.
In the current summer schedule, the peak period for international flights, is between 22:00 (10 PM) and 02:00 (2 AM), with eight flights and all of them wide-bodies with the exception of Air India and Tiger Airways. Singapore Airlines SQ502 is the first to arrive at 21:50, Air India IC594 at 22:10, Tiger Airways TR652 at 22:20, Thai Airways TG325 at 23:15, Malaysia Airlines MH192 at 23:40, Air France AF192 at 23:55, Lufthansa LH754 at 00:10, and Dragonair KA152 at 01:20. Each flight spends typically 90 minutes at the stand.
This rush requires accurate scheduling, and provides the airport operators BIAL very little leeway in handling exceptions, as demonstrated last night.
Singapore Airlines flight SQ502 from Singapore to Bangalore which normally arrives at 21:50 was delayed by two hours and arrived at 23:45. By the time SQ arrived, the other gates were occupied with the Air France, Thai, Malaysia, and Lufthansa flights. As the picture below shows, the SQ flight was forced to park at a “non-contact” stand i.e. with no aerobridge connection to the passenger terminal building. I do not even want to hazard a guess on where the Air India and Tiger Airways flights were accommodated. Incidentally, if you see the large version of the image, the aircraft is 9V-SYL a Boeing 777-300 instead of the normal 777-200 operated by Singapore Airlines to Bangalore.
International passengers regardless of aircraft type need a contact gate since they normally have a lot more carry-on baggage, and courtesy of longer flights, are generally more tired. Commercially too, while domestic air traffic has crashed more than 20% since the new airport opened, thanks to the economic slowdown, international operations at BIA have been the saving grace and increased by about 8%.
It raises an interesting point of discussion. Keeping in view the Rs. 1070 (approx $21.40) User Development Fee international passengers pay, which, by the way, is almost 400% more than domestic passengers, is it not incumbent on the airport operators to create adequate infrastructure to provide leeway for exceptional situations like last night ? or provide adequate buffer capacity for future growth ? On the flip side, creating infrastructure for a potential situation that occurs very rarely, or growth which may take time to come, could be considered unneeded and wasteful.
What do you think? Please share your views via a comment.
For more photos visit my Flickr site.