Bengaluru International Airport performs well despite the slow down

At a recently meeting of the infrastructure committee of the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce we had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Marcel Hungerbuehler about India’s second greenfield private airport Bengaluru International Airport (BIA), which opened last May.

Based on his discussions and presentation, I compiled some graphs on airport and air travel performance.

There is little doubt that BIA is suffering the effects of the slowdown. Overall passenger traffic is down 17.3% with domestic traffic crashing by 20.5%. The saving grace has been a 6.68% increase in international passenger traffic.

Click on images for a larger view

Bangalore constitutes about 10% of India’s total air passenger traffic. There were some apprehensions that the distant location of the airport has contributed to the crash in regional traffic. The graph shows that Bangalore is generally following the same trends as the rest of India, but the recovery in Bangalore seems to be slightly muted when compared to all India. Compared to this, the buses and trains are running quite full, indicating a switch in travel mode by passengers.

From a peak hour load of over 33 flight movements per hour at the old HAL airport, the new airport is down to a maximum of 23 movements per hour, alleviating fears about immediate runway capacity once the recovery commences. At present BIA is around eight million passengers per year. Sources at the airport inform me that BIAL the consortium operating the airport considers the terminal capacity to be around 12 million passengers per year. Once the traffic crosses 9.6 million, they will consider construction of the second terminal to the east of the current terminal, where the current VIP terminal, staff parking and L&T project office is located.

I am sure passengers in the United States will be envious of the baggage delivery times at BIA. The first bag in on the belt five to service minutes after the aircraft arrives, with Oman Air being the most efficient. International flights take as much as 48 minutes for the last bag to be placed on the belt. The reason for this appears to be the x-ray screen by Indian customs of all international arriving baggage. The two Boeing 747 operators Lufthansa and British Airways have the longest arrival times thanks to the volume of baggage.

BIA has the dubious distinction of being on Forbes’ “World’s most delayed airports” list. The February data shows a significant improvement with 61% on-time flight performance, and another 21% delayed less than 15 minutes (which is considered on-time) for a total of 82%.

It is clear that the capacity constraints caused by airport infrastructure at other Indian airports and the early morning fog during the winter months of December and January are major causes for the poor performance at BIA. Addressing the infrastructure constraints at Mumbai and Delhi will take time, and out of BIAL’s control, but address the early morning fog related delays is within BIAL’s control.

BIA must upgrade to Cat II ILS and that will require correction of the steep glideslope by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) who are responsible for the air traffic control and navigation at the airport including the initial faulty installation of the ILS equipment. This will require each side of the runway to be shut down for 25 days.

Sources at the airport tell me that correcting the glideslope has been the top-most priority since the airport opening. The incorrect installation was done by the AAI and now a new hut is required to re-locate the ILS equipment. The sticking point is cost. Naturally BIAL will expect AAI to bear the cost. AAI while agreeing verbally is not issuing a letter to this effect, leaving the corrective actions hanging and passengers suffering.

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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