BENGALURU: May 23, 2008. It was a perfect cool Friday night in Bengaluru, but for a group of people huddled around an air traffic control centre, the tension was palpable. A flight was due to land at the newly inaugurated Bangalore International Airport, which is now known as Kempegowda International Airport, located about 30 kilometres from the heart of the city.
An Air India flight IT 609 from Mumbai which touched down at 10:40 PM and took off at 12:05 AM was the first air traffic movement that the airport witnessed. And it was possible due to efforts of several staffers involved.“I had not slept for 72 hours. We were on the verge of achieving something remarkable. While worldover, airports were transitioned in a phased manner, here we had to pick up the mantle of handling 300 take-offs and landings and 10.2 million passengers, overnight,” said Hari Marar, Managing Director and CEO at the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL). At the time of the Kempegowda International Airport’s take-off to a remarkable journey ahead, he was the Director of Operations.
However, the journey of the airport, which completed 10 years of operations on Friday, has witnessed many ‘turbulences’ so far. It was commissioned in the midst of protests. The first flight to the airport was operated even as employees of the HAL airport, the city’s travel hub till then, were protesting on the streets.
Over the years, the airport has been criticised for slow expansion, its distance from the city and other factors. From facing pressure to allow the HAL airport to operate to seeing strikes because of high toll rates collected outside its premises, the airport has seen many hiccups through the last decade. But the airport authorities have struggled against all these odds to provide excellent facilities at KIA, which now handles above 25 million passengers every year.
“Our first goal was to work together to increase the efficiency of the airport. Once this was achieved, we started looking at value addition and providing entertainment for passengers. Today, the airport experience itself is a memorable part of the vacation for many travellers,” Marar said.
“The planning in the initial stages was lopsided in terms of estimation. But all said and done, BIAL has done a reasonably good job. Along with the airport, the Air Traffic Controllers must also be thanked for the amazing job they have done of ensuring flight movements without any incidents,” said brand consultant and frequent flyer Harish Bijoor.
Bijoor, however, cautioned BIAL against complacency as well.“We have an airport that caters to today’s needs but not tomorrow’s requirements. With a large floating population entering and leaving the city daily, the airport must fast track its forward estimates,” he said.