First anniversary of Bangalore airport: BIAL CEO Marcel Hungerbuehler interview – Part 1

Bengaluru International Airport was India’s first greenfield private airport conceived. In 1991, just as then Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh began the much heralded liberalisation of the Indian economy, the concept of a privately operated airport was born.

Bangalore was still to emerge on the Indian map, forget the global stage. Air passenger traffic was not even one million passengers per year.

The ultra-radical concept set the standard and passed through many milestones and hurdles to be finally fructified on May 24, 2008.

The airport operator Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) is celebrated a month long “first anniversary party” which includes a shopping and cultural festival. On this first anniversary I bring to you a five part interview with BIAL CEO Marcel Hungerbuehler and assess the past, the present, and the future.

Part 1 – The past.

Q1. How do you gauge the past year?
Q2. What does BIA need to improve on?
Q3. What are the strengths of BIA?
Q4. What lessons has BIAL learnt from its operating experience?

From an operations point of view, the first year has been critical for the stabilization of the airport processes and facilities. The feedback of the airlines and passengers matter the most to us. We provide cost competitive environment for the airlines to operate in and the passengers receive hassle free services, so both are happy with the new airport.

With that said, the challenge is more from an industry point of view. One should take serious cognizance of the current threat of our sector being at “crossroads”, though at the same time remain undaunted enough to carry the progressive reforms and policies in the sector forward. When has the global aviation sector not had crises? There is a call for innovation and for efficient management of our systems. The work on developing and modernizing airport infrastructure must continue in order to avoid capacity constraints, improve air space efficiency and minimize costs. As the air traveller becomes discerning, it is imperative to ensure that we do not create any inequities in his overall airport experience.

It is important to recognize that the opening up of the skies has allowed many to realize the convenience of air travel. It is time that we took an alternate view of looking at our available transportation systems. India’s diversity and breadth mandates that we move away from the current either/or approach to transportation solutions and look at integrating airports with other modes of transportation like railways and roads/highways, enabling seamless transportation to all parts of the country.

We are proud of the high service standard reached after only one year of operation. Departure punctuality reached 89% !! in April 2009, [departures within 15 minutes of scheduled time are considered “on-time” as per international norms]. Baggage delivery remained constant over several months and stands at 7minutes of the first baggage being on the belt. To name just two.

Editor’s note: See previous article detailing performance

Please visit tomorrow for Part 2 – Revenue Streams

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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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