Saturday, February 24, 2018

Old airport revival on HAL agenda

Bengaluru: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) is exploring ways to re-open its idling airport in Bengaluru to short-distance civil commercial flights, according to a top official.

HAL hopes to re-launch the defence airport for a burgeoning regional air traffic, Chairman and Managing Director T. Suvarna Raju said in a recent interview.

“HAL and BIAL are working out a mutually acceptable business proposal to start operations from the old HAL airport. It can be done for regional connectivity. Looking at Bengaluru’s growing demand, the old airport can be useful to meet future demand beyond 2020,” Mr. Raju said. Without elaborating, he said a plan would be worked out and offered to BIAL, which operates the privately promoted Kempegowda International Airport.

BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Ltd) said, “There is no specific update about HAL or related plans.”

Until May 2008, the HAL airport – located within the city – was the hub of Bengaluru’s international and domestic air travel and was operated by the Airports Authority of India.

KIA started operating in 2008 at Devanahalli, about 40 km north of the city’s old central hubs. It is the country’s third busiest after Delhi and Mumbai’s airports. In almost ten years, its annual passenger traffic has doubled to 25 million during 2017 – about 19% being regional or short-haul travellers.

In the past three or four years, successive HAL chiefs have said they would like to have the airport reopened. When it was shut down on May 23, 2008, after around 50 years of operation, HAL airport had clocked over 10 million passengers a year.

The concession agreement (CA) signed in 2004 between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and BIAL mandates that the new airport cannot have a rival commercial airport within a radius of 150 km for 25 years - that is until after May 2033. Any plan to reopen it will also mean revisiting the CA.

Today the old airport handles military and test flights besides small chartered and VVIP aircraft.

When it closed, HAL airport had reportedly last made business of around ₹150 crore. It is small in HAL’s overall current revenue of around ₹18,000 crore which mainly comes from selling fighters, transport planes and helicopters to the Air Force.
24/02/18 Jay Shankar/The Hindu
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