Bengaluru International Airport, which saw change in ownership recently, has concluded the runway upgradation work. The airport announced the increase in runway capacity to 38 Air Traffic Movements per hour as compared to 34 prior to the commissioning of two Rapid Exit Taxiways (RETs). The work which was carried on from January 2017 until August 2017 involved closure of operations from 1030hrs to 1700hrs between 19th February 2017 and 30th April 2017.
The airport has been growing fast in line with the growth in the country and recorded 22.18 million passengers in 2016, a growth of 22.5%. The Air Traffic Movements increased by 19.9%. GVK which built the greenfield airport and operationalized in 2008, recently sold its residual stake of 10% to Fairfax India, months after earlier agreeing to sell 33% stake in March 2017.
The increase in movements will largely help AirAsia India which started its India operations from Bengaluru. The airline has started inducting capacity in its quest to reach 20 aircraft at the earliest and start flying international. Vistara – the TATA-SIA Joint venture which became the fourth airline in the country to operate the A320neo, recently increased frequency between Delhi and Bengaluru to five flights a day. Vistara could look at additional flights from Bengaluru with the availability of slots.
IndiGo – the largest airline in the country by market share has been plagued by issues with the Pratt & Whitney engines on its A320neo aircraft and has struggled to expand in the last few months. The airline has reported grounding of aircraft and it is running a truncated schedule currently. With the end of the engine woes nowhere in sight, a big bang expansion will definitely be on hold.
The airport is also constrained for parking bays and terminal capacity and significant change would take place in later half of 2019 when the second runway will be commissioned. The airport is unlikely to see full-fledged dual runway operations until 2020, since the current runway is likely to be closed for upgradation when the secondary runway become operational. The airport has seen runway closure in 2012 for 24 days for resurfacing the runway.
Jet Airways first to take advantage
Jet Airways which had announced that it would make Bengaluru its third hub after Mumbai and Delhi is one of the first to take advantage of the increase in capacity. The airline is launching two daily flights to Lucknow and re-instating flight to Goa. It is also re-jigging flights on Bengaluru – Kolkata – Guwahati to operate as Bengaluru – Kolkata – Silchar – Guwahati and add third daily Delhi – Guwahati – Delhi flight competing with low cost competitors IndiGo and AirAsia India.
The new flights include direct non-stops between Bengaluru and Patna and 4th frequency between Bengaluru and Kolkata. The airline is inducting a few B737-800NG aircraft from the lease market to expand till it starts getting the B737MAX8 later next year.
Jet Airways starts flights to Amsterdam from Bengaluru in October and has started flights to Colombo and Singapore recently. However, the domestic additions do not give good connections to the international flights as yet since they are not part of the bank structure at Bengaluru unlike Delhi or Mumbai.
Bengaluru is well placed to take advantage of the increasing air traffic in the country. However, the airport has not been able to keep pace with the growth. Starting with the issue with runway within years of construction to the shortage of terminal area and lack of gates, there have been pitfalls all along.
While the entire airport was built between 2005 to 2008, the second runway construction started in 2016 and will not be complete until September 2019. The airport is also building its second Terminal (Terminal 2) and will have a new apron space coming up which will substantially increase the night parking availability.
The three major airports in Southern India – Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru have seen exponential growth in the last few years. While Chennai is saturated, Hyderabad (whose taxiway doubles up as a runway) sees severe terminal capacity constraints.
With focus of Jet Airways shifting to Bengaluru, IndiGo inducting the ATRs which could crisscross multiple cities from Bengaluru and AirAsia India most likely to start International services from Bengaluru when they reach eligibility, the growth at Bengaluru looks solid in future.
Let’s hope the new management expedites the expansion and lives up to the growth of the city. There was a possibility of adding another 24-28 air traffic movements per hour at HAL airport, which is not being used even when airlines are denied slots at BIAL due to shortage of either runway capacity or terminal capacity. Unfortunately for Bengaluru the deal between the government and the airport operator prevents from use of the readily available infrastructure.