New Bangalore International Airport – First impression

Haven’t posted in here for a long time due to variety of factors. Want to do this a bit more regularly.

Today is the 4th day of operations at the new Devanahalli BIA. I was wondering if my flight in to Bangalore on Friday would land there, but luckily they opened on Saturday. Otherwise, I’d have been one of the first guinea Pigs.

Staying in Kasturinagar (next to Banaswadi) I am lucky to be living next to a ring road connecting to Hebbal and from there a six lane high way to airport. It took only 30 minutes from my house to BIA with a local taxi (Left home at 6am). I am sure during the day that time will atleast double to 1hour.

Why Local taxi??

Well, I tried booking a Easy-cab and Meru-Cab 12 hours in advance the previous evening. But, was politely told they can’t take the booking as they are ‘out of capacity’. My trusted old call-taxi came willingly, though it cost me Rs.700 for the drop.

So, here is the biggest gripe about the Transportation: I don’t know where exactly the shuttle stops close to Channasandra, though it is shown in their map. I checked a day in advance if there is any display, but there wasn’t any. So, where do I stand waiting for the Shuttle?

Besides, The bus, with a frequency of half hour, has only 30 seats. In early mornings, and late evenings, when peak traffic to Airport materializes, 30 seats from the entire KR-Puram belt will be filled up easily. On my way I saw 2 BMTC volvo buses, without a single seat vacant. And my hunch has to be right. The frequency of 30 minutes during early mornings and late evenings won’t be sufficient.

Besides, there should be clear demarcated places to pick people up. The BMTC phones and BIAL phones were not being answered (Typical govt. organization attitude).

Ok. So, what about the airport itself?

Airport is functional, much better than HAL (which is like kannada saying ‘kurudiginta kiwudi lesu’ – meaning a deaf is better than a blind.)

I feel they are ‘out of capacity’ from day one. Some people (including BIAL itself attributes it to Teething Problems). I am only listing areas which can’t be ‘teething’ problem, but lack of proper planning.
The private parking area in front was crowded and narrow. The check-in queue area is small (Hyderabad airport has far bigger area!!). The toilet area at check-in zone can handle only about 5-6 people at a time, Considering distance from City that’s not much!! And it was dirty. A strange thing was – There were more faucets than pots.

Once you check-in you go above for security check. A definite improvement over HAL airport. There were about 6 security check points but, only 3 working, when I went in, but there is bound to be queue at peak hour, but nothing compared to HAL.

Get in, and all off a sudden it hits you. It looks swanky but crowded. In fact, most areas look cramped. There are more gates, but only 8 aero bridges. Only one Passenger information display, just after the security check-in area. NOT ADEQUATE.

All the gates have seating capacity. Between 60-80. Considering the plane capacity is almost triple of that, people will be crowding near the gates (nothing new here). But, it seems to be a better design than Hyderabad Airport in the sense Aerobridges seem more usable here than in Hyderabad. In hyderabad only 4 aero bridges are usable and Bus rides to terminal are common.

Security hold area seems further cramped because of large food and other retail shops, butting very close to seating areas.

There was a lot of confusion as to which Gate I’d board from, but then this can easily be sorted out in coming days.

The interior finish quality of the airport is bad. Compared to Hyderabad Airport, this airport looks aged from Day one. But then Hyderabad Airport has lesser traffic but larger interior space.
One thing I liked : There was a cafeteria in the outside of Check-in area, where the prices seemed reasonable. South Indian snacks at around Rs.30 (compared to the Rs.80 inside the security hold area). Certainly a way to go. I never understood the tendency in India to price eatables at about 5-8 times (500-800%) more than their fair value. International norms are more like about 2 times (100% more).

I guess, it is much better than before, but no where close to most of the international airports I have seen. It is Cramped, out of capacity from Day one and not even thoughtfully designed. Hope some of these will be corrected over a period of time. But, some others can’t be corrected as they are design flaws.
The design of this airport seems totally dated. Wasn’t an exciting experience. Perhaps for people who never experienced better than HAL, may be this will be satisfactory. But not for frequent flyers.
I also fail to see reason to rush to open the Airport at 100%. They are apparently not ready, there are glitches and capacity constraints, especially in trained man-power and proper directions and displays. They could’ve had a soft-launch with may be International and Long-distance flights being shifted first, and then over 3 months shift the others (if at all HAL needs to be closed).
CONNECTIVITY: Time wise it won’t trouble me much as it used to take about 20 minutes journey to HAL in morning and it took only 30 minutes to get to BIA. And In evening it used to take 40 minutes to HAL and it’d be about 1hr to BIA.

But, I do empathize with people having to travel from longer distances on regular basis. Govt. certainly needs to do something about giving better info. on pickup points etc.

Oh! Contarary to what people think, I feel govt. needs to be congratulated!!! The 6 lane highway from Hebbal to Airport is indeed fairly fast. The only short coming is there are some 4-5 traffic junctions. During the day time it’d slow people down. They should’ve planned flyovers or underpasses here (instead of troubling people in future). But, this is much much better than what they have in Hyderabad. Now all they need to figure is a way to connect people to Hebbal and clear the junctions in the middle.

HAL Airport: I was for keeping the HAL Airport open for short flights. That impression hasn’t changed. People think it has something to do with commuting. In my case atleast it isn’t. It takes me same time (more or less) to reach either of these places. But, my objection to the closure is that, Bangalore is leaping beyond anyones expectation. There is no point in giving a Monopoly to rent-seeking companies.

Just think of this: Govt thinks of building a Express Rail Connectivity at an expense of Rs.4,000crore. The cost of BIA? Rs.2600crore!! It can’t get more absurd than that. Govt. gave a monopoly to BIAL under the pretext of not having funds to build one itself. And now proposes to spend almost double that amount to provide connectivity!! 15 years back India was a different country. You can’t let the constraints of those days rule your future. If we let a monopoly of 150km stand, then for next 60 years (30 + 30), BIAL will hold Bangalore to ransom.