Bangalore: It is slick, it is contemporary and boasts of world-class amenities. The new Bengaluru International Airport is Bangalore’s behemoth.
First conceived in 1999, it has taken nearly nine years in the making and yet BIAL is far from being complete.
Meant to commence operations from March 30, BIAL failed to get the necessary green signal from the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The technical question mark over the readiness of the ATC tower aside, Connectivity is the biggest issue that is dogging Bangalore's new international airport.
"I am appalled that the Bangalore international airport connectivity is in doldrums. It's a cruel joke,” says former chief minister, Karnataka, S M Krishna.
Politics aside, BIAL will also far exceed its passenger traffic forecast from the very first day.
BIAL says that it will be handling 10.1 million users by 2010. HAL, Bangalore's older airport is already handling 10.5 million passengers.
And according to air traffic figures Bangalore reported a 40 per cent growth in international passenger traffic between September 2006 and August 2007, which is more than double the all India average growth of 16 per cent.
Clearly BIAL seems to be underestimating growth, which is why the cries for keeping HAL airport open are getting louder.
"Bangalore, Hyderabad are all big cities, they need two airports as to ensure there is competition. I choose my TV channel, I choose my newspaper, I choose my restaurant, I choose my beer, I choose my airlines, why can’t I choose my airport?" says Managing Director, Air Deccan, Captain G R Gopinath.
For the IT sector, that choice would most certainly be HAL. And that's because the commuting time from anywhere in the city to BIAL would take you a good two hours or more given the chock-a-block traffic jams, the bad roads and the sheer distance.
There are already four PILs pending hearing in the Karnataka HC against the closure of HAL airport.
"The government is in no position to put the infrastructure in place before two-three years and if you have no access to the airport then it makes no sense to open the new airport,” says petitioner, R K Mishra.
Sure, Bangalore is getting a spanking new airport, but for a city that has grown so fast and furious, is one airport going to be enough?
For passengers traveling to Chennai, Hyderabad and closer destinations, isn't it ironical that their actual journey will be far less compared to the time taken commuting to the airport?
And shouldn't the government be a little more careful when it comes to signing contracts that stem competition and allow monopoly?