Ahead of last’s night’s Las Vegas welcome reception at this year’s World Routes, Richard Maslen spoke to Hari Marar, president, airport operations at Bangaluru International Airport, one of India’s developing aviation gateways.
Q) Which key new air services have you attracted in the past 12 months among your airport portfolio and how will these meet with your development plans for the future?
A) “In the recent past, Bengaluru International Airport has successfully attracted new airlines and in turn, higher passenger numbers. In just five years, the airport has connected the city to over 53 destinations and created a passage for 33 airlines, servicing approximately 35,000 passengers each day. The Airport also connects to several Tier II cities across the country. This is a sign for us that Bengaluru International Airport is an airport of choice for domestic and international travellers.”
Q) What route successes have you had over the past 12 months?
A) “In the past year we have enhanced connectivity to new destinations in South India like Mysore, Pondicherry, Calicut, Tirupati, Hubli, Belgaum, Vijayawada, Rajahmundry, Agatti Islands and Tuticorin. Last year Indigo, Jet Airways, Air India and Spicejet all added new routes from Bengaluru International Airport. In the last fiscal, international carriers, Malaysia Airlines, Sri Lankan, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Oman Air, Tiger Airways, SilkAir and AeroLogic Cargo and two domestic airlines, Indigo and Go Air have increased their frequencies from the airport. Last year this airport also welcomed the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Air India’s first scheduled 787 service and that has continued to operate out of the airport daily. The airport was also the second facility in the country to welcome the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I last year. Further, a new regional carrier would soon start operations from Bangalore.
“Starting this month Qatar Airways will start its Boeing 787 operations from our airport. A new flight to Bangkok by SpiceJet has been announced recently. The future looks encouraging with domestic carriers looking to create secondary bases and International carriers acknowledging the potential that this region offers, by adding more frequencies. We are keen to anchor a home base carrier and are in conversation with Indian carriers to create their secondary hub at our airport.”
Q) What projects have been taken at the airport to provide capacity to support your network growth?
A) “To cater to the growing traffic demand, we have undertaken the expansion of the terminal at the airport. The expanded terminal (T1) will enhance the existing infrastructure and will cater to approximately 20 million passengers per year. T1 will be equipped with cutting edge IT infrastructure, security systems, airport infrastructure and environment friendly infrastructure, systems and processes. As a greenfield airport we offer state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities to provide seamless air travel experience for the passenger. The operational efficiency and infrastructure that a greenfield airport offers to airlines, facilitates for future network expansion plans to cater to the growing traffic demands.”
Q) What are your key target markets for future network development? Which are the growing markets from/to India?
A) “The Bengaluru International Airport vision is to be the gateway to the South of India. While we continue to focus on establishing the regional connectivity, our endeavor will be to establish a direct link to the US market particularly San Francisco which sees the second highest O&D traffic in the country from Bangalore. In fact, many Indian and US-based carriers are evaluating the BLR-SFO route through a mid-point over the Pacific. Our focus in the coming months will be towards developing connectivity to key destinations in South-East Asia particularly China, Japan and Korea, besides connectivity to African gateways in Kenya and Ethiopia. Besides this we also see a huge potential for direct connectivity with Australia which is emerging as a growing IT market. Currently Bangalore is connected to Australia through the hubs of Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. We are actively pitching for a non-stop Australian connection as we believe we have a strong geographical positioning to be the Gateway to India for the Oceania region and South Africa.
Q) The Indian market has faced a challenging period. How has that impact your development over the past couple of years?
A) “There has been general slump in the aviation industry with airlines remaining vulnerable to the market conditions. While the air traffic is expected to expand, the market would largely remain volatile. However, it is interesting to note how the aviation industry has seen a significant growth of air connectivity across South India particularly from Bangalore. The recent slowdown in traffic, largely due to the collapse of one of India’s largest airlines, caused a short-term loss of passenger numbers. However, the buoyancy of the market and its resilience has resulted in the airport being able to recover the entire lost traffic, in a relatively short time frame of less than a year.
“South India is flourishing, not just economically but also in terms of airport infrastructure and airline connectivity, making it a dynamic aviation market. This region also contributes towards the highest air traffic in India with Bengaluru International Airport being the 3rd busiest domestic and 4th busiest aviation market in India. This airport attracts a mix of long-haul, high-yield international passengers and has seen a growth of five per cent in the international traffic in the last year. The last fiscal has been promising at the Bengaluru International Airport. We greeted our 50 millionth passenger, clocked in one millionth metric tonnes of cargo and handled our half a millionth Aircraft Movements (ATMs) since the Airport opened in May 2008. Passenger traffic figures stood at approximately 12 million for FY 2011-12 and the cargo volume has increased to 226,667 million tonnes. Recently the airport set a single-day record of handling 43,345 passengers in August 2013.”
Q) What are your ambitions for the next five years? What will be the key drivers of your airport infrastructure projects in India over the coming five years?
A) “Bengaluru International Airport’s vision is to be the gateway to the South of India which will enable the economic prosperity of this region by facilitating it’s connectivity to the world and by catalyzing investments in aviation and non-aviation sectors in the airport city and the region around the airport. We have a well-defined route development strategy with four clear objectives to achieve our goal of being the Gateway to South India.
“The short term goal is to maximize domestic and regional connectivity to strengthen the position of being “Gateway to South of India” and alternative capture of traffic flows. In the long term the development of “Home Carrier” for International connectivity, maximize 6th freedom traffic, to position the airport as “Hinterland Hub” and to maximize presence of one strong alliance member to generate 5th and 6th freedom traffic – to position the airport as an ‘Hourglass Hub’.
“Our ongoing focus for this year will be towards anchoring a home carrier and we are in conversation with Indian carriers to create their secondary hub at our airport. The past two years have witnessed fundamental changes in the way we conduct business and welcome travellers to Bengaluru. This year will see these efforts take a tangible shape in the form of the expanded Terminal 1.
“The expanded terminal building design takes into account existing core strengths i.e. short walkways, ease and convenience of usage, linear flow and flexible design. The terminal when expanded, will more than double the current floor space. The airport terminal will have more check-in counters, seating areas, a large security hold area and more aerobridges.
“The expanded terminal (T1) will enhance the existing infrastructure and will cater to approximately 20 million pax per year. T1 will be equipped with cutting edge IT infrastructure, security systems, airport infrastructure and environment friendly infrastructure, systems and processes. Our continuous endeavor will be to ensure smooth and seamless operation of the enhanced Terminal and with focus on enhanced connectivity through Route Development.
“With the exponential growth expected in the coming years in the Indian Aviation industry, infrastructure growth needs to keep pace with the growing demands of air traffic. Bengaluru International Airport has recently refreshed and revised its traffic forecast and its Master plan. It is foreseen that the works related to the building a second runway, associated airside facilities and second Terminal must commence in order to deliver the much needed infrastructure to cater to the anticipated spurt in traffic. On completion of the first phase on the next wave of expansion projects, BIAL will be poised to handle over 35 million passengers per year.”