Bial may put expansion on hold

Bial may put expansion on hold

Hyderabad: The operator of Bangalore’s new international airport is considering putting on hold its plans to add a temporary terminal as domestic passenger counts have fallen in recent months, its top official said.

And, passengers are likely to be charged a user development fee of around Rs300 every time they use the airport from the end of this month, making air travel to the city more expensive.

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel had asked Bangalore International Airport Ltd, or Bial, which runs the new airport, to create a so-called express terminal to handle peak passenger traffic.

But domestic traffic has fallen by 17% month-on-month although international traffic has risen some 5%, chief executive officer Albert Brunner said.

Brunner, who met ministry officials on Monday in the capital to discuss the matter, said he expects a formal communication on the user development fee by next week. “We expect to introduce it hopefully from this month," he said.

“Airlines will need some time to adjust to it, so we will charge it at the counters."

The new airport, which opened for business in May when the old airport was closed, had sought to levy a user fee of Rs675 on each passenger to offset part of the capital cost of building the facility.

An official at the civil aviation ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ministry is likely to agree to a fee of Rs312. He added that the fee cannot be more than the Rs375 that users are charged at the new airport in Hyderabad, since it carries fewer passengers than the one in Bangalore. A final decision is yet to be taken, he added.

Bial has spent nearly Rs2,260 crore in developing the new airport, out of its total audited cost of Rs2,470 crore, Brunner said. A nearly equal amount is likely to be spent on the second phase that is scheduled to start next year.

The chief executive said Bial is conducting a study and based on the results, which will be out in two-three months, the airport will decide whether to build a temporary terminal or proceed as originally planned to build a second terminal and airport in the second phase.

Brunner said that the Indian Air Force, or IAF, has raised objections over the location of the second runway, but added it was “completely impossible" to build a runway to the north of the existing one as suggested by IAF.

He said Bial’s plan had already been cleared by the defence ministry.

The operator, however, is trying to find a solution to issues raised by IAF, which has two air bases next door, he said.