OPINION

The Bangalore International Airport - The Day One Experience

May 27, 2008
Anuradha Goyal

I was to land in Bangalore on 24th May in the morning at 8:45 AM, and this turned out to be the exact date on which Bangalore’s new international airport was to commence operations. To be honest, I was sincerely hoping that I land at the old airport as it is a hop. skip, and jump from my place. And the closer you were to the old Bangalore, the farther you are from the new airport in Devanahalli. But now that I have landed at BIAL on day one and got comfortably back home, it feels good to be a part of the history. There have been so many debates, arguments, views and controversies around opening of BIAL that I want to share the experience if being there on Day 1.

As we were landing at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning, all those who were returning home wanted to peep out and have a glimpse of the new airport from the top. While landing at HAL, I could always see my apartment complex, and a whole lot of other identifiable landmarks. At BIAL, it was a vast empty space all around and then there were two airstrips in the middle of nowhere. The first look at airport from the plane window did not give a great impression, it looked like a building still under construction. It is definitely much bigger and better than HAL, but is it big enough to take care of the potential air traffic of Bangalore in coming years, I am not sure. As we landed through an aerobridge, which used to be a rarity at HAL, it felt nice to go through an absolutely new aerobridge still to be adorned with advertisements or any other kind of messages or notices. As we walked out, the place looked a little deserted, but none the less everyone carried a curious look on their faces as they walked towards the immigration counters.

The counters look ported from the old airport, not very different and I think they  could have been better designed. They look like counters in old time banks and are situated too close to each other. The yellow line to separate the queues and the counters is yet to be drawn. The number of counters was good enough to clear most passengers within 5-6 minutes. I spoke to the immigration officer who was excited to be at the new airport. When I asked him is he happy about being in the new facility he said, 'Its day 1 - lets see how it goes’.

The toilets were a big disappointment. Less than 9 hours of operations and the toilets were dirty, filthy and it appeared that they had not been cleaned at all since being opened. The down escalator was not working, but there were people attending to it and it started working in about 30 mins or so. Baggage carousels are well designed, a lot of people can stand by them and collect their baggage. While immigration was finished in 5 mins, we had to wait at least an hour before the carousel started moving, which everyone applauded loudly. I was lucky to get my baggage very fast after it started moving. While waiting for the baggage, I moved around to see the airport and strolled around a few retail outlets, most of which were still in the setup mode and were fixing things. The prices mentioned were in dollars and I wonder why.

The whole airport carries a resemblance to the Infosys campus, especially the washrooms. Similar designs and materials have been used, probably because of the Mr Narayana Murthy being at the helm of affairs at both places…There was a huge board saying ‘I came here First’ with the lovely BIAL logo, open to everyone to sign on it. It felt great to sign on it. If you happen to see it, look out for my signature right on I.

As I came out of the airport, the view outside was almost similar to the one at HAL, loads and loads of taxi guys with placards waiting for their customers. It is when you go past them that you are able to see the other options to get back home. Thanks to the very active association of my apartment complex, I knew that I have to take the Electronic City bus to reach home. The Volvo bus station is about 200-300 mts from the arrival gate. You can take the trolley right up to the bus. The conductor helped me load the luggage on the bus. The buses are well designed to carry lots of luggage and can seat 31 persons. The conductor had a small machine around his neck which he used to issue tickets. The ticket to Sarjapur road junction on ORR costs Rs 150/-. You can also take taxis, which are flat priced at Rs 15/- per km. For most of us living in south Bangalore, I guess the bus is a better option than taxis, especially for women traveling alone as its one long stretch of lonely roads. The bus was comfortable and it took me 1 hour and 20 mins to cover approx imately 50 kms. It was a Saturday, so it might take a little longer on weekdays and during peak hours.

I think the Volvo buses are going to be a huge hit, provided there are enough of them. With only a capacity of 31 persons, we would need a lot of them. Buses are a good option to come back from the airport, but to go there they may end up serving only those who board them from the starting point. This would mean we need many more starting points or routes for the buses. Another idea may be exploring Taxi pooling to and from huge apartment complexes, organizations and hotels. This can reduce pressure on everything: roads, environment and pockets.

In my opinion it would take another 3-4 months by the time everything smoothens out, and the airport wears its planned swanky look. Overall, it was a nice experience to be there on Day 1, far better than what most newspapers made it out to be.

Anuradha is an independent Innovation Consultant based out of Bangalore. You can see her profile at http://www.anuradhagoyal.com
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#1
Aaman
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May 27, 2008
02:09 PM

Thanks for the report - I'm dreading my first flight through the new airport, going to avoid checking in any baggage if I can help it

#2
blokesablogin
June 5, 2008
09:04 PM

My husband made it out safely and on time on the 1st day!! The long comute from B'lore cant to the airport was the gripe.

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