The Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru is likely to close 2020 with lower than one-third of the passenger traffic that it saw last year. The airport is expecting a full recovery by 2023-24.
Hari Marar, MD and CEO of Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) told CNBC-TV18 that the company was open to operating the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airport within the city, but only once existing airport capacity in the city is utilised.
"We are at 88 percent of pre-COVID connectivity in terms of number of destinations we are serving. As far as air traffic movement is concerned, we are at about 60 percent of pre-COVID levels, and in terms of passenger numbers, we are at 40 percent of pre-COVID levels," Marar said and adding that the festive season traffic was gaining momentum.
"We should have 8-9 million passengers in CY2020, and expect total recovery to pre-COVID levels by 2023-24," he said. This is far lower than the 33.65 million passengers who travelled through the Kempegowda International Airport in 2019.
BIAL has held discussions with HAL on its airport, Marar said. The Karnataka government has discussed with BIAL on operating the HAL airport, as the state is keen to open up the HAL airport for commercial passengers.
The HAL airport has been shut for passenger operations since 2008 after the Kempegowda International Airport commenced operations on the outskirts of the city, with the agreement that no rival commercial airport would operate in a 150-km radius.
"We have held conversations with HAL on mutually agreeable terms to operate the
"However, with traffic dropping right now, it should not be considered for quite some time. Once existing capacity is utilised, and it makes sense to have an alternate in the middle of the city, we are open to considering operating HAL airport. There are no closed minds, we are open to operating HAL airport," he added.
This would mean a longer wait for HAL airport to reopen, as BIAL is also pushing its Rs 13,000 crore expansion programme that will see its Terminal 2 opening up by 2022.
"BIAL is in the midst of a Rs 13,000-crore expansion programme. The second runway, the second power station are already commissioned. The second terminal is under construction, and about 55 percent work is through. The roadways are getting expanded to five-lanes from two-lanes," Marar explained.
"All this work will be completed by Q1 of 2022," he added.
BIAL last month signed an MoU with Virgin Hyperloop One for a study to evaluate the technical and financial feasibility to connect the city centre with the Kempegowda International airport via Hyperloop, that would lower travel time to from the existing 40-50 minutes to just 10 minutes.
"The feasibility study will take 12 months, post which we will have to look at government approvals and land acquisition. The establishment of test track will likely be three years from now, and after that it will take five-six years to complete the project," Marar highlighted.
The MD and CEO of BIAL added that the scope of the study is to arrive at the costs and cost-sharing model, and that the project may need a consortium of investors to step in.
He also said that the airport will need more connectivity by 2030, even as the suburban railway network and Metro connectivity progresses.
"We had 33 million passengers through the airport in CY19. By 2030-33 we estimate the number to reach 80-85 million passengers. We will need multiple modes of transport for that volume of passengers. The metro, suburban railway and Hyperloop are all part of the jigsaw puzzle, they will address different market requirements," he said.