The Fast-growing Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru
Airports Interview

The Fast-growing Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru

DALLAS – Fast becoming the world’s fastest-growing airport, India’s Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) in Bangalore is witnessing tremendous passenger movement, surpassing the 250 million mark since its opening.

What’s more, the opening of the much-awaited Terminal 2 is just a couple of months away. On discussing with a BIAL spokesperson, we’ve covered an insight into the growth ahead for BLR. 

Airways got the chance to talk to BLR’s General Manager of Corporate Communications, Gayathri Pradeep, and her team to discuss the airport’s growth and the launch of the new terminal, among other topics.

SG: BLR just hit 250 million-how do you see this number growing in the near future? Perhaps it’s safe to say BLR is India’s fastest-growing airport, or, for that matter, in South Asia, too.

GP: BLR Airport has crossed the 250-million passenger mark since its launch operations in 2008. We have handled 2 million Air Traffic Movements (ATM) making us the fastest Public-Private Partnership (PPP) airport in South India to achieve this milestone. BLR airport is also trending between 65 and 70% in handling international passenger traffic.

A key aspect that has led to the growth in passenger traffic has been enhanced connectivity among domestic as well as international destinations. The introduction of new carriers is coupled with the introduction of new routes at BLR Airport. With the occurrence of the pandemic, traffic growth over the past two years has been slower than usual. However, BLR Airport has historically grown significantly amidst adversity.

BLR Airport aspires to reach 25 million passenger movements through Terminal 2 (in the initial phase) and 36 million movements through Terminal 1. Thus, BLR Airport is estimated to handle 60 million passengers in the next few years based on growing demand and other factors. We are anticipating handling 85 to 100 million passengers by the early 2030s.

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Image: BLR Airport

Terminal 2’s opening is right around the corner, how many passengers and aircraft movements can it cater to under its initial phase?

Prior to Covid-19, BLR Airport had a passenger handling capacity of about 36 million in Terminal 1. As aforementioned, with Terminal 2, we aspire to cater to 25 million passengers when phase one is completed. An additional 20 million passengers per annum can travel when phase two is completed.

Terminal 1 was initially built to handle 20 million passengers per annum (MPPA), and it is now capable of handling 36 MPPA and 90 air transport movements (ATMs) per hour. The growth can be credited to technology innovations deployed at the airport like Digi Yatra, Smart Security System, and Contactless Self-Baggage Drop.

Would both domestic and international operations commence from T2 upon opening? If so, which airlines would be the first to make their move to T2?

Yes, Terminal 2 will have both domestic and international flight operations. While the arrivals floor plan is on the ground floor, the Departures space is designed to be on the first floor.

It would be too early to comment on the airlines operating from Terminal 2 at this stage.

Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. Photo: By Ank Kumar – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The second half of 2022 has a variety of new direct routes from Bangalore to Sydney, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tel Aviv – the first of many more long and ultra-long haul flights to come.

Currently, Bengaluru airport serves about 25 international destinations, and we have the highest international connectivity among all the airports in South India. We have collaborated with Malindo Air to re-instating operations from the BLR-KUL route starting from August four this year.

Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Airlines has restarted its operations effective March 28, 2022. Amsterdam by KLM shall restart effective May 23, 2022, with three weekly frequencies and will further enhance to four weekly frequencies effective June 21, 2022.

Japan Airlines have also started scheduling twice/weekly flights between Bengaluru and Tokyo. This will be increased to thrice weekly frequency effective Jun’22. Qantas will begin its four weekly flights to Sydney from September 14, 2022, and United Airlines is scheduled to begin its daily flights to San Francisco in the last quarter of this year.

Apart from this, two weekly flights to Tel Aviv by Air India and daily flights to Seattle by American Airlines are also planned for the launch soon. All airlines that are currently operating at the airport are expected to resume most of their international operations (pre-Covid) non-stop destinations by the second quarter of FY23.

Image: BLR Airport

Terminal 2 to Push BLR an Extra Mile

The first weeks of October will see BLR open its new terminal 2 door to 25 million passengers annually besides the existing terminal 1. The first phase of the T2 will have a built-up area of 255,000 sq.m and comes with an estimated price tag of Rs 13,000 cores – Larsen and Turbo are carrying out construction work while designing is done by US architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

As part of a well-planned expansion, a couple of years ago, the airport opened up its new southern runway to increase hourly movements. A bunch of global long-haul routes is to be expected in the coming months and Vietjet was the latest to add BLR to its network.

The airport doesn’t just serve the people of Bangalore but the entire of South India, passengers from nearby cities like Chennai, Kochi, Hyderabad, and more connect through BLR to reach much of the west in particular (44% to Southeast Asia, 43% to the USA, 37% to North America, 33% to Europe, and 23% to Africa).

While on the domestic side, the Airport is dotted with 76 destinations, again partly playing a hub and spoke for south India – with this coverage it serves around 250 million plus people, nearly 1/5th of the Indian population.

Photo: BLR Airport

Air Freight at Kempegoda International

In terms of cargo, Kempegowda International Airport also recorded its highest-ever cargo tonnage in Financial Year (FY) 2022, despite challenging circumstances due to multiple Covid waves. 

Several major global carriers fly in and out of BLR, the latest being UPS. Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) was awarded a license to operate its first cargo handling operation for a period of 15 years come May 2023.

WFS will take up responsibility for the development, operation, management, and maintenance of one of the cargo terminals at India’s third-largest cargo gateway for international import and export cargo.

Featured image: BLR Airport

Europe and Asia Correspondent
Commercial pilot | Flight Instructor | Aviation Journalist & writer.

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