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Hard work at BIAL results in significant improvement

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On Friday, 20-June-2008, I took a flight out of BIAL airport. As my pictorial essay shows, the hard work, by the stake holders at BIAL, is showing results, in the form of significant improvements.

Getting to the airport
While the distance to the new airport is significant, I have always maintained that connectivity to the airport was not a major problem. I left Koramangala at 08:30am, driving my Hyundai i10. I was at the airport terminal by 09:45am.

Despite maintaining a comfortable pace, I encountered a hair raising experience with a pedestrian running across the highway. The many policeman on the road, were just bystanders, enjoying the life and death drama. I have voiced my concerns about a lack of pedestrian over-bridges in an earlier article (read article), and I am informed that there is on average 1 major accident or death everyday on the NH-7.

Arriving, check-in, and security
I was met at arrival by a very senior official of BIAL. I am deliberately keeping his name confidential, but I extend my thanks to him for all the courtesy.

While he went to the CISF security office to arrange an apron pass for me, I went ahead with check-in. Two of the departure doors were manned. The CISF guard checked my ID card (which CISF in Mumbai did not bother with, on my return leg). The check-in hall was quite empty and there was a small check-in queue. The folks at Kingfisher are very efficient. I did notice, that most airlines logged in to the CUTE terminals, and hence the stations displayed their airline, but did not staff them. I was informed that the morning peak period was over.

Met up with the BIAL official and we proceed up the escalator, and through the security check. CISF have implemented a past suggestion of mine to use 1 DFMD to service two physical check stations. We both expressed exasperation at the CISF insistence on using DFMDs, since there was a 100% physical check and frisk, which renders the DFMD check redundant. But then the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security is not known at the sharpest knife in the already dull bureaucratic block.

Also, all the women's lines were on one side, and there were hardly any women. So while men were waiting, the CISF female lines and guards were sitting idle.

I have suggested to CISF in the past to have a mixed line for the women. i.e. one DFMD serving one female check station and one male station.

The Apron
After leaving my carry-on bag in the BIAL official's office, we went down to the departure baggage make-up area, and it was a hive of activity. It is still is capacity constrained, a weakness in BIAL capacity.

At the tarmac we could see all the vehicles buzzing around. The worst were the old, decrepit tractors of Jet Airways and Indigo. I was informed that these polluting tractors were not permitted inside the baggage area. So they bring the luggage trolleys till the building entrance and then the electric tugs take over. BIAL has imposed a July 31st deadline on removal of these smoke belchers. I can understand, why BIAL is upset at the airlines' insistence on doing their own handling. A lot of duplicated equipment was cluttered all around the tarmac lying mostly unused.

A major reason for week 1 chaos at BIAL
I also discovered one of the main causes of chaos at the airport during the first week of its operations (which I subsequently confirmed through other sources at the airport). Apart from the un-preparedness of Globe Ground (GG) and AI-SATS, a major contributor was India's "largest airline". This airline did not sign-up with any of the ground handlers, and thought they would do it themselves. 24 hours before the airport opened they realised they would be unable to, and pressured one of the ground handling agents to do the handling. Net result, insufficient and untrained staff, major disruptions and heaps of misery on everyone.

The official had to go and welcome Kingfisher's first Airbus A330 VT-VJK (read story)which was arriving. So he escorted me to the elevator and soon I was back in the departure hall.

The Departure Hall
The departure lounge was fairly empty. With seating available. Restaurants and shops were buzzing. The restrooms are small, with acceptable cleanliness.

I chose to look around, and chat up with the airport staff, and ask them their opinions. They all felt that the airport is slowly coming around. It is still not a great place to work in, but significantly better then when it opened. Their daily commute of about 80km was the biggest source of displeasure, despite the free transport provided by their employers.

Most airlines are experiencing a steep drop in regional passenger traffic. Flights to Chennai and Hyderabad, which used to be packed, now carry only about 15~20 passengers. There was a sense of despondency.


The FIDs (Flight Information Displays) still need improvement. They are too small, forcing passengers to get really close to read.
And they are still only in English. No Kannada or Hindi.

Observe the speakers. If you recall, in my visit report before the airport opened, I commented about the microphones at each gate, that would provide localised boarding announcements. Boy, was I wrong. Every little detail of every flight is blared over the speakers. Coupled with the poor acoustics, it is not a pleasant experience. BIAL should force the use of the "local" gate announcements concept.

Many departing passengers took time to grab something to eat. The long trip from town, does make you hungry. The restaurants offers decent food, but other passengers told me that RGIA Hyderabad food was significantly superior.



The incoming flight was about 5 minutes late, and the aerobridge operators took some time to attach, but the Kingfisher staff rushed the Globe Ground staff through their aircraft turn around, and we were boarded and took off on time. A short taxi, and soon we were airborne.

The departure experience was good. Most of the issues have been addressed, corrected, and operations stabilised.

The Return
We landed without any delay. For some reason the aircraft was not exited on a rapid exit, and so we went for a long taxiway tour of the airport.

After parking at a remote bay, despite almost a month since the airport opened, the Globe Ground crew took several attempts to attach the truck mounted ladder. I thought they would have become proficient by now, but obviously they need more experience.

I was informed that airlines preferred remote bays to "contact" (aerobridge) gates, since the aerobridge operators took even longer to attach.

We were brought to the terminal in a combination of Ashok Leyland's version of the Cobus, operated by Globe Ground, and Vayu Vajra Volvos. Due to the layout and regulations of the apron, we had to take the royal tour. This also explains why the bags take about 15 minutes to come.



Baggage Claim
We arrived to see a cleaning machine busy cleaning the floors. The airport looked bright and like a shining jewel against the darkness of the night.

The baggage came within 5 minutes of our arriving at the terminal. Passengers collected their baggage and dispersed within 10 minutes of our arrival in to the terminal. Good show by Globe Ground and Kingfisher.

On the international side, things were not so good. This scene is when only the Singapore Airlines flight has landed. The main crush of European arrivals had not yet arrived. The bags were coming very slowly. Obviously the Customs X-Ray inspection of incoming bags was slowing things down.


After exiting the baggage claim hall, I walked across till the glass divider, and peeked in to the departure hall. Compared to my departure, it was quite full, with all the international passengers waiting to check in.

Exiting the terminal


On exiting the terminal, one is immediately confronted with the familiar line of drivers with the name placards waiting for their guests.


Private taxi drivers lurk like hungry wolves waiting to pounce on arriving passengers en-masse and offer "taxi" services. In the absence of any city police, the BIAL employees were powerless to prevent this predatory and unwelcome practice. I could not find a single policeman at the airport. Only CISF, and their authority stops at the terminal door.

There was a reasonable line of passengers waiting at the departure doors to enter the airport, and many passengers who apparently arrived early took the time to occupy the seating outside the terminal meant for visitors.

Others took to sitting on the concrete pillars and catch-up.

Cars were parked three deep on the drop off lanes, till the parking contractor's van came with its siren blaring forcing them to move.

Vayu Vajra and the Bus stand
I headed out to the Vayu Vajra stand, still being accosted by offers of "taxi service", and the bus stand stood out like a shining beacon. The bustle knocked the picture, my apologies.

An oasis of light in the desert of darkness from the bus stand. The BMTC bus drivers were very helpful, and there is schedule chart. I observed that there is an over abundance of service to Hebbal. Also there are only VV services to Hebbal, Electronics City and Kempegowda bus stand. No economical Suvarna service to these 3 destinations.

I just missed my VV back to Koramangala, and would have to wait another hour for the next service. So I trudged back to the terminal, and linked up with the AirLift folks. It was a slightly long walk to the P1 parking, past the bus stand, but I was soon in a comfy Toyota Innova, one of 50, and zipping back to town.

My fellow passengers were Major Kapoor (now retired and running a team building education service), and Dr. Balaji (an ENT surgeon and now a tele-medicine expert).

During the trip I sought their views. Like me, they both felt that BIAL has improved significantly, including bathrooms. They also felt that Hyderabad RGIA,was far superior to BIAL, in almost all aspects. Unlike RGIA, BIAL shows effects of cost cutting, which according to Major Kapoor makes "BIAL lack the 'feel good' factor of Hyderabad".

Conclusion
Comparisons aside, I am highly impressed by the improvements at BIAL. Without doubt, BIAL terminal is a superior product compared to the AAI terminal at HAL, and a facility Bangalore can be proud of. While there are areas, like ground handling and cargo, which require improvement, all the operations teams at BIAL and stake holders can be rightfully proud of their hard efforts, and its results at the airport.

The total crash in regional traffic is alarming, and it will behoove BIAL to consider operations at HAL, in a larger public interest. The Governments of India and Karnataka, should strongly consider letting BIAL and AAI continue their partnership, and together they can operate the terminal facilties at HAL airport, while letting the hyper-efficient HAL ATC operate the air traffic, giving Bangalore, the best of both worlds.

All images are my copyright. The web album is here.

[Originally posted on my personal blog here]

Comments

idontspam's picture

Airport downscaling

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Just read somewhere Dallas lovefield is downscaling from 32 gates to 20 gates so people will have to walk less. It is going to be entirely funded by southwest airlines. Cant find the link.
Devesh's picture

Dallas Lovefield downscaling

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 It is due to the compromise agreement on the Wright Amendment. A good example of how politics interferes in the lives of citizens. Check Wikipedia for an overview on the Wright Amendment.

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

 

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
idontspam's picture

Staring at our future?

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Wright amendment makes interesting reading. If we let HAL operate we might just be looking at our own future. We will be better off if we learn from this.
s_yajaman's picture

Hopes of HAL reopening fade away?

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I saw this on the net.

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IE120080623223536&Page=1&Title=Bangalore&Topic=0

Devesh - any juice on this? :)

I second your blog - having been using the airport quite often I can see that it is functioning quite well. 

This has emboldened me to leave home just 2hrs and 15 mins before my flight (this applicable for early morning flights).  I reach 1 hr 15 mins before and check-in,etc is done in 15 mins at most - leaving me at least 30-40 mins before boarding starts.

When I went yesterday - I saw the early signs of distress for the airline industry.

a. A few flights were cancelled.

b. The check-in counters for Deccan, Air India (domestic) and Indigo had NOT ONE person checking in.  The staff were just standing around talking.  This at the peak hour of 6:15 in the morning.  The boarding areas had lots of seats vacant.

c. On the way back - Bombay terminal 1B was fairly empty - this at 5:30 p.m.  Usually bustling with activity.  Our plane - a 737-900 had about 30-40 seats empty.

What have your observations been Devesh?

Srivathsa

 

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Devesh's picture

The Wright Amendment - Lessons for Bangalore

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I think that the Wright Amendment and its subsequent effects, are a better indicator of how excessive government interference spoils the dynamics of a free market.

Love field demonstrates how a small airfield and just one up-start airline (which incidentally is the most profitable) can function in competition to a behemoth.

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

 

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
Devesh's picture

HAL airport re-opening

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Without revealing too much, the news report is not in line with the views of the AAI team. So I am not sure, if, it is a deliberate attempt to scuttle a negative report. Ony time can tell.

Yes, air traffic has definitely taken a hit. Passenger growth has slowed drastically, but is still in positive territory. However, BIAL location, and therefore the resources required to get there, have taken a terrible toll on regional traffic which used to be around 3 million passengers. 

Just as an example, there is a seminar in Chennai I would have liked to attend, but it starts at 8am. The seminar is not worth all the effort and expense. From HAL, the effort expense ratio would have balanced out. So I am sending a junior, by train, instead.

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

 

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
Devesh's picture

Is the new Bangalore Airport project Goldplated ?

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Is the new Bangalore Airport project Goldplated ?
Venkatesha Babu - Saturday, June 21, 2008 8:08 AM

http://blogs.livemint.com...

Nearly a month after it was thrown open to traffic, the new Bengaluru International Aiport Ltd (BIAL) seems to be still struck in the midst of controversy. The new Karnataka government has stated that it will ask the Centre to keep the old HAL airport in the city open for short haul flights. Number of airlines have cut back on short haul flights to places like Chennai and Hyderabad from Bangalore. This is because it takes approximately the same amount of time to travel to the new airport, board your aircraft and descend in Chennai, as it would to just hire a cab and go on road to that city.

What is even more interesting is the demand made by serial entreprenur and member of parliment Rajeev Chandrasekhar to make the finances and costing of the BIAL airport public. The project was initially slated to cost Rs 1334 crore but ended up at Rs 2470 crore. BIAL blames the cost escalation on the delay in executing the project, which happened due to a number of reasons, including it is fair to say, some which were out of its control. But BIAL has been chary of giving a detailed breakup of how it arrived at the figure of Rs 2470 crore.

This is crucial because several of the charges and levies which are borne by passengers and airlines (which in turn would anyway pass it onto the flier) is tied into the project cost. That is the reason why some are apprehensive that the project may have been goldplated. Wherever returns are tied in to the amount of investment and it is a monopoly player, their is very little incentive to squeeze costs. BIAL might have fallen victim to the same.

However since government owns 26% stake (13% is owned by KSIIDC a Karnataka government body which provided the 4050 acres of land on which the airport sits and 13% by Airports Authority of India owned by the Central government), they should force BIAL management to give a detailed breakup of on what this Rs 2470 crore was spent on. Also the government should compare the costs to what the GMR led consortium has done at the Hyderabad International Airport.  

BIAL itself should aggressively disclose all details and be transparent so that accusations of goldplating the project would go away. Till then there will be lingering suscpison in the minds of the general public.

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
Devesh's picture

HAL Airport rated at 8 million passenger capacity

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HAL Airport rated at 8 million passenger capacity An official study by the Airports Authority of India assesses the annual passenger capacity of HAL Airport at 8 million passengers. 6.5 million domestic terminal and 1.5 million international terminal. This is contrary to popular belief of 3.5 million passengers. According to Mr. B.R. Sena, General Manager, AAI, Bangalore, the figure of 3.5 million is based on extremely old assessments. AAI has added the international terminal building, and increased the size of the existing domestic departure terminal since then. ----------------------- Regards Devesh R. Agarwal Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com
-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
tsubba's picture

auto assesment

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what about you devesh? do you believe this auto-assessment? single runway, smaller terminal, fewer gates, and prolly unoptimal processes you know the whole story. or is there some sort of performance plateau where by beyond a certain level?
Devesh's picture

HAL Airport rated at 8 million passenger capacity

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Hi TS

On the airside, I have said before, that HAL is very similar to BIAL. HAL can handle 8 million air side. 5 gates, 2 Code E PBB (BIAL has 8 Code C PBB, which gets reduced to 3 Code E).

We do not fully appreciate HAL terminal becuase it is expanded in bits and pieces, so we do not see one large terminal like BIAL, but there is floor space.

On the terminal, I have to disagree with this report.

By floor area calculations as per the international airport terminal design reference manual, the figure can be 8 million, but not in the supporting service, especially parking and cargo.

However, keeping in view the support facilities, all put together, I would say 6.5 million would be a comfortable figure. 8 million is achievable but it will start becoming congested.

BIAL seems to have the opposite problem. :). Big parking, but limited terminal space.

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

 

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
malq's picture

Wishlist at BIAL

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Free newspapers. Prayer or meditation room. "Silent area" at one end of the sitting space. Infant area. Child-play area. Signage in all three languages. Post office. Low-cost food outlet. Low-cost fresh juice outlet. Thaali meal. Healthy salad bar.

All this, and more, is what we have got used to at places like DEL, BOM, PNQ, MAA . . . so does the new airport at BIAL mean, like the Mark-2 Mark-3 era with Ambasador cars, that "new" means "less"?

And please bring the bus disembark/embark point closer to the terminal, with nil zebra crossings in between. The baton jockeys posted on the zebra crossing are more interested in letting vehicles through till they have sufficient pedestrians backed up, instead of the other way, and one day somebody will just smash a baggage trolley under a car that is not stopping . . . and why not?

silkboard's picture

Was there this morning

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Certainly not as much sand and dust as was the case a month ago when it opened. I also noticed serious work was on around the toilets, perhaps they are expanding both of them (near gate #1 and gate #11).

Caught a cab from HAL airport at 9:20am, reached BIAL at 10:45 am. NH7 drive is really scary, there are many deaths waiting to happen, period.

I too think they should move the bus stand area closer to terminal by simply swapping parking area-4 with it.

10:45 am Monday morning, airport seemed so light and empty. Was out of the cab and at gate #11 for my Pune flight in about 8 mins. And moreover, second time in a row, my Pune flight left and reached on time. I hear less and less of the usual 30 minutes delays that were a constant at HAL. Don't know if the improved on time performances are a result of reduced flight schedules or BIAL's efficiency. Devesh is the boss in these matters.

About low cost food stalls, I noticed this. At HAL airport, that shop inside the terminal used to sell over MRP. I had complained to the airport manager twice, for I got sold a can of Amul Cold Cafe at 50% over MRP. Well, nothing happened. Whereas, by contrast, a mere threat of complaint at Patna airport (of all the places) last year got the shop owner to apologize and refund the money over MRP.

At least in the shops outside BIAL, canned and bottled stuff is all at MRP. Small point, but I noticed.

kbsyed61's picture

Time to suggest improvements on behalf of Praja !

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 SB and others,

 My suggestion is, Praja community should use the good will that was established during the BIAL arranged tour of airport in April for good use. It is time, a list of required  suggestions and feedback is presented to BIAL for the consideration on behalf of Praja.

 Also it is very important that individuals who have used the airport to send in their feedbacks and suggestion to BIAL as well.

 That way we are engaged with BIAL for improvements and needed changes .

Syed 

 

 

Devesh's picture

Improvements at BIAL

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I agree with SB. The improvements at BIAL are a combination of efforts at BIAL, coupled with the slowdown in traffic.

With regards to the NH7. The State High Level Task Force constituted under the leadership of Ms. Neerja Rajkumar (currently heading KUIDFC) had recommended to NHAI about using the Skywalks of BBMP design. NHAI refused. The results are plain to see.

The worst part of this is that NHAI is headed by Mr. Gokulram, a very capable, competent, and decent officer of the Karnataka cadre. If Praja can write to him, he might speed things up.

I will bring it up in tomorrow's HLTF meeting.

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

 

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
s_yajaman's picture

Traffic slow down - report from ET

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Here is a report from ET on how ATF has hit flights.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News_By_Industry/Airlines_cut_flight

Mumbai used to handle about 730 to 740 flights daily some time back and now the figure has dropped to 640 to 650. Delhi has also seen a decline of 20-30 flights from earlier daily figure of 730. Bangalore has witnessed the sharpest decline with a daily movement of about 280-290 now, while earlier it witnessed 350 arrivals and departures," a senior ATC official said.

So some validity to SB's hypothesis.

Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

s_yajaman's picture

How do we write to Mr. Gokulram? Or an online petition

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Devesh,

I think that a majority of users and visitors would support these skywalks.  How do we write to him?

SB - do we run an online petition for skywalks on NH-7, which Devesh could take to the NHAI (Mr. Gokulram).  May or may not have any effect.  But let's try to do what we can.

Srivathsa

 

 

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

admin's picture

online petitions on Praja

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Several other folks too have and had suggested hosting online petitions here. We will have an online petition concept up on Praja by this weekend. Lets kick it off with NH7 pedestrian issues.

[Meanwhile, we are told the word has gone out on this, those who need to know have heard about NH7 pedestrian issues.]

murali772's picture

what are Gokulram's constraints?

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I will endorse Devesh's comments on Mr Gokulram. I had met him a few times when he was the Director, Inds & Commerce, GoK. He was known to be very helpful and proactive. I wonder what his constraints are.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
Devesh's picture

BIA II phase suffers a setback

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From the Deccan Herald this morning

BIA II phase suffers a setback
From B S Arun, DH News Service, New Delhi:
Just as the first phase of the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) was finally declared open after hitting air pocket several times, the proposed second phase has received a blow. The Defence Ministry is opposed to the proposed second runway direction and wants it to be shifted.

As per the Master Plan, approved by several agencies including the ministry, the second runway, part of the second phase, is to come up to the south of the existing one.

IAF’s objection
The Indian Air Force has raised objections now and wants it to the north or the eastern side of the present one.
At a meeting convened by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar recently to hear the views of the players involved, the Airports Authority of India opined that the second runway would not be of much use because of the present airspace constraints, while the Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) and Karnataka government were against changes in the plans.

Deccan Herald has learnt that at the meeting, the IAF raised safety concerns if the second runway goes as planned, as it said the lateral separation between existing runway at the BIA and the nearby Flying Training School at Yelahanka would be only 4.03 nautical mile (1 nm=1.85 km). It was also emphasised that as the helicopter circuit is towards the north of Yelahanka, the distance between helicopter traffic and aircraft on the final approach at the BIA, the first runway as existing would not be more than 2.5 nm.

In the case of the second runway, this distance would reduce to only 1.5 nm, which, it said, was inadequate and may lead to near misses also.

According to the BIAL, the site for the airport was selected by the Ramanathan committee and the no-objection certificate for the second runway, as per the Master Plan, was issued by the Defence Ministry itself in March 2004. Besides, if the second runway has to be shifted, the entire  agreement would need a relook and this would not be acceptable to the various partners of the BIAL.

Noting that the growth of traffic has exceeded the forecast made in 2005, the BIAL said in view of this, the airport operator was required to embark on the implementation of the second runway as per the Master Plan.
The BIAL also pointed out that shifting the second runway to the north would have consequences on air traffic operations and on the overall plan. The capacity and efficiency of the airport would be reduced significantly.

Source : The Deccan Herald

-----------------------

Regards

Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at http://aviation.deveshagarwal.com

 

-----------------------
Regards
Devesh
Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD

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