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Why Bengaluru’s HAL Airport May Not Reopen 

Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?

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Reaching the Bengaluru International Airport and reaching Bengaluru city are two different things. Located more than 40km north of Bengaluru’s city centre, getting to the Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli, through the traffic jams, is not pleasant to say the least.

This is one of the reasons why there is a growing demand for reopening the HAL airport – located within the city – which was the hub of Bengaluru’s international and domestic air travel a decade ago.

For past few years, the central and state governments have been in talks with the Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operators of the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), to reopen the HAL airport for domestic flights.

Despite the hue and cry from the public, the proposal is yet to move forward. So here is why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport.

Why Bengaluru’s HAL Airport May Not Reopen 

  1. 1. Why was HAL Airport Shut in the First Place?

    Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
    A file photo of HAL airport. 
    Photo: crazybeatle.com

    From 1980 to 2008, the HAL airport was operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). All the international and domestic air services in and out of Bengaluru were carried out from this airport, located less than 10km from the city centre.

    But when the IT boom changed Bengaluru, passenger count at the HAL airport increased. The limited facilities at the airport were stretched to match the increasing demand, but they fell short.

    Between 2006 and 2007, the HAL airport received 82 lakh passengers per annum, which was well beyond its capacity of 36 lakhs passengers.

    As the airport was in the city, there was no room for expanding the airport terminal and tarmac, which could hold only 6 aircraft at a time.

    After years of planning, in 2008, all the commercial airline operations in Bengaluru were shifted to the newly built Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli, spread over 4,000 acres.

    Currently, KIA is the third busiest airport in the country, after Delhi and Mumbai’s airports. Over the past ten years, the air traffic in city has moved from 82 lakhs to 2.5 crores passengers per annum.

    Expand
  2. 2. Why There is a Demand to Reopen?

    Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
    The students sent emails demanding money to Kempegowda International Airport using email accounts in their lecturers’ names.
    (Photo: The News Minute)

    Even though KIA is one of the finest airports in the country, reaching the airport, wading through city’s traffic is very time consuming. Over the years, cases of people missing flights because of traffic have become not so rare in the city.

    Apart from the time taken, commuting to the new airport is costly as well. As there is no metro connectivity to the airport, the passengers have to rely on bus and cab services. The bus services don’t reach all parts of the city, which makes cabs the most used form of public transport to the airport.

    A trip to the airport in a cab could cost anywhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1,500, depending on the distance and time. This increases the cost of the air travel for many passengers, especially domestic flights.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Stops Govt from Reopening HAL Airport?

    Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
    HAL airport currently undertakes military and VVIP sorties.  
    Photo: PTI

    Even though HAL is keen on reopening the airport for short domestic flights, the government’s hands are tied. As per a concession agreement signed in 2004 between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and BIAL, KIA can’t have any rival commercial airport within a radius of 150 km for 25 years.

    As HAL falls under these clauses of this agreement, unless BIAL allows, no commercial flights can be operated from HAL airport. Over the past two years, at least five meetings have been held between BIAL, Karnataka Government and Ministry of Aviation (the stakeholders in KIA). The last meeting was held on 18 August. However, there hasn’t been a decision from BIAL on relaxing the terms of the contract to allow HAL to operate domestic flights.

    Expand
  4. 4. UDAN Give HAL Hope

    While BIAL is yet to make its position on allowing HAL to operate domestic flights clear, on 7 February, Karnataka’s tourism minister RV Deshpande told the Legislative Assembly that HAL is among the 19 airports proposed by the state government for the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Udan ('Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik') scheme.

    Udan is a scheme to provide air connectivity to smaller towns across the country and the minister said HAL could play a crucial role in boosting the short, domestic air travel requirements under the Udan project in Karnataka.

    This move is expected to aid the demand for the reopening HAL for domestic flights.

    Expand
  5. 5. What About the Expansion of KIA?

    Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
    Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport. Image used for representational purposes. 
    (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

    To match increasing footfall at the airport, KIA is currently undergoing an expansion. A second runway is expected to be operational by the end of 2019 and the work of a second terminal, T2, is currently underway.

    The first phase of terminal 2, which is expected to be completed by 2022, will increase the airport’s capacity by an additional 2.5 crore passengers per annum, taking the total capacity of the airport to 4.5 crore passengers per annum, by end of 2022.

    This expansion work poses a problem and an opportunity for those demanding the reopening of the HAL airport. As the expansion of the KIA is expected to take four more years, the government is pushing for the reopening of HAL to ease the pressure on the BIAL.

    However, BIAL argues that the development is planned, and it will be able to handle the passenger footfall without any trouble. They also add that reopening HAL would counterproductive as thousands of crores will spent in development work of the airport in the coming days.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why was HAL Airport Shut in the First Place?

Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
A file photo of HAL airport. 
Photo: crazybeatle.com

From 1980 to 2008, the HAL airport was operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). All the international and domestic air services in and out of Bengaluru were carried out from this airport, located less than 10km from the city centre.

But when the IT boom changed Bengaluru, passenger count at the HAL airport increased. The limited facilities at the airport were stretched to match the increasing demand, but they fell short.

Between 2006 and 2007, the HAL airport received 82 lakh passengers per annum, which was well beyond its capacity of 36 lakhs passengers.

As the airport was in the city, there was no room for expanding the airport terminal and tarmac, which could hold only 6 aircraft at a time.

After years of planning, in 2008, all the commercial airline operations in Bengaluru were shifted to the newly built Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli, spread over 4,000 acres.

Currently, KIA is the third busiest airport in the country, after Delhi and Mumbai’s airports. Over the past ten years, the air traffic in city has moved from 82 lakhs to 2.5 crores passengers per annum.

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Why There is a Demand to Reopen?

Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
The students sent emails demanding money to Kempegowda International Airport using email accounts in their lecturers’ names.
(Photo: The News Minute)

Even though KIA is one of the finest airports in the country, reaching the airport, wading through city’s traffic is very time consuming. Over the years, cases of people missing flights because of traffic have become not so rare in the city.

Apart from the time taken, commuting to the new airport is costly as well. As there is no metro connectivity to the airport, the passengers have to rely on bus and cab services. The bus services don’t reach all parts of the city, which makes cabs the most used form of public transport to the airport.

A trip to the airport in a cab could cost anywhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1,500, depending on the distance and time. This increases the cost of the air travel for many passengers, especially domestic flights.

What Stops Govt from Reopening HAL Airport?

Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
HAL airport currently undertakes military and VVIP sorties.  
Photo: PTI

Even though HAL is keen on reopening the airport for short domestic flights, the government’s hands are tied. As per a concession agreement signed in 2004 between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and BIAL, KIA can’t have any rival commercial airport within a radius of 150 km for 25 years.

As HAL falls under these clauses of this agreement, unless BIAL allows, no commercial flights can be operated from HAL airport. Over the past two years, at least five meetings have been held between BIAL, Karnataka Government and Ministry of Aviation (the stakeholders in KIA). The last meeting was held on 18 August. However, there hasn’t been a decision from BIAL on relaxing the terms of the contract to allow HAL to operate domestic flights.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

UDAN Give HAL Hope

While BIAL is yet to make its position on allowing HAL to operate domestic flights clear, on 7 February, Karnataka’s tourism minister RV Deshpande told the Legislative Assembly that HAL is among the 19 airports proposed by the state government for the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Udan ('Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik') scheme.

Udan is a scheme to provide air connectivity to smaller towns across the country and the minister said HAL could play a crucial role in boosting the short, domestic air travel requirements under the Udan project in Karnataka.

This move is expected to aid the demand for the reopening HAL for domestic flights.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What About the Expansion of KIA?

Why authorities aren’t reopening the HAL airport despite the increasing demands?
Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport. Image used for representational purposes. 
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

To match increasing footfall at the airport, KIA is currently undergoing an expansion. A second runway is expected to be operational by the end of 2019 and the work of a second terminal, T2, is currently underway.

The first phase of terminal 2, which is expected to be completed by 2022, will increase the airport’s capacity by an additional 2.5 crore passengers per annum, taking the total capacity of the airport to 4.5 crore passengers per annum, by end of 2022.

This expansion work poses a problem and an opportunity for those demanding the reopening of the HAL airport. As the expansion of the KIA is expected to take four more years, the government is pushing for the reopening of HAL to ease the pressure on the BIAL.

However, BIAL argues that the development is planned, and it will be able to handle the passenger footfall without any trouble. They also add that reopening HAL would counterproductive as thousands of crores will spent in development work of the airport in the coming days.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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