Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The rise and rise of Kempegowda International airport

Since the maiden flight from the second runway at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International airport took off in December 2019, the city has been in a neck-and-neck race to steal Mumbai’s rank as the second largest airport in India.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had set the deadline to fly the inaugural flight from the Navi Mumbai airport in December 2019. While the Navi Mumbai International airport failed to meet the deadline, Bengaluru stole the show. The competition is head-on since then.

Last fiscal, Bengaluru airport handled 10.9 million passengers while Mumbai did 11 million. Mumbai is in a losing battle.

The latest blow comes from Akasa Air and Jet 2.0 — they have decided to set up their primary base in Bengaluru and Delhi, respectively. As the birthplace of commercial air travel in India, Mumbai should have stayed prominent on the country’s aviation radar.

But, over the past decade, the story of Mumbai, with its lone congested airport that functions out of a single runway, has been one of setbacks. Today Delhi is the primary operations base for IndiGo, Air India, Vistara, SpiceJet and GoAir; while AirAsiaIndia calls Bengaluru home.

Mumbai is currently airline-bereft. And if trends persist, it may slide further to keep company with Kolkata and Chennai in third or fourth position, which is a mighty drop from the number one position it held till 2011.

Mumbai began losing at the turn of the century with the advent of low-cost carriers (LCCs), which thrive on airports with nimble runways and fast terminals. Land, de-board passengers, board and depart as quickly as possible, is the process. Take-off or landing slots and speed afforded by Delhi airport’s parallel runways—both can be used simultaneously— have made it a natural choice for LCCs.

Mumbai too has two runways, but they lie X-shaped, a cross that LCCs were not ready to bear, given that only one runway could be used at a time.

21/09/21 Manju V/Bangalore Mirror

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