Bangalore airport scores high on service quality

The Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) has received a high rating in a survey carried out by the Airport Councils International (ACI), an international association of the world’s airports. On a scale of five, BIA has received a score of 4.2 in the first quarter of 2010 alone.

operartion control centre-BIAL

The 24/7 Airport Operations Control Center plays a crucial role in coordinating between various departments to ensure smooth operations. Pic courtesy: BIAL

The survey is carried out by speaking to passengers every month of the year.

Bengaluru International Airport Limited’s (BIAL) Director (Operations) Hari Marar says that airports generally score around 3.5 in their first year of operation. “We received a score of 4.07 in the the first year. Internally we believe operation stability was gained very early”, Marar says, explaining that more about 32 criteria are mapped in the survey.

Marar says that they also conduct internal surveys to gauge responses from passengers. He also cites the example of Air France whose passengers rated BIA as Number One in the areas of check-in and boarding, leaving behind airports in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In April this year BIA was awarded with the title ‘Best Emerging Airport’ in the Indian subcontinent, by the Emerging Markets Airports Awards (EMAA). Other nominees included the GMR Hyderabad International Airport, Bandaranaike International Airport (Sri Lanka) and Malé International Airport (Maldives).

Nerve-centre of airport

What has played a crucial role in ensuring smooth and efficient service at the airport is the Airport Operations Control Center (AOCC), a concept implemented by BIAL for the first time in India. 

Marcel Hungerbuehler, President, BIAL, explains that the AOCC has representatives of all important process owners present including ground handlers, airlines, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the airport operator. It is a 24/7 center and plays a crucial role in the smooth, efficient and well-coordinated functioning of the airport, in times of disruptions and delays.

The AOCC has helped BIA in high punctuality of flights. "It helps enhanced predictability resulting in better planning and real-time overview of operations resulting in enhanced quality of decision-making – quick, accurate and taken by the correct partner", explains Hungerbuehler.

Working as the nerve centre of the airport, the different departments feed real-time data which facilitates a collaborative decision-making process.

The AOCC has been in operation since the airport opened in May 2008.

New highs in traffic

As BIA entered its third year of operations in May 2010, the month also saw them handle the highest number of passengers on a single day on May 21 with a total of 37,015 passengers. Interestingly, on the May 28th 2008, the day the airport was opened, 26,000 passengers checked-in.

The airport also crossed the one million mark by handling 1,043,412 passengers in one month for the first time in the month of May this year.

Peter Farmer

Managing Director of 3D Reid Architects, Peter Farmer, handing over the ‘Best Emerging Airport’ award to BIAL President Marcel Hungerbuehler. Pic courtesy: BIAL

Responses to criticism from state government

But the last two years haven’t been all hunky-dory for BIA. Just last year, in December 2009, the airport was in the news for being ‘below global standards’. This was after a 21-member Joint Legislative Committee (JLC), set up by the state government, submitted a report ‘Examination of construction of the Bangalore International Airport’ saying the airport has ‘flaws’ including ‘faulty design’. This panel was chaired by BJP MLA D Hemachandra Sagar.

Marar says that BIAL considered "them very seriously. We took them around the airport and produced instant responses." He says that the JLC’s report highlighted certain perceived lack of facilities. "Some of them were genuine. They were weaknesses", he admits.

One of the shortcomings mentioned in the JLC report was the insufficient number of toilets, says Marar, after which more restrooms were added.

He also says that despite a separate VIP facility, many ministers preferred a reserved lounge in the regular departure area, which was done in October 2008. "All this during the first few months after opening, which is a sensitive period."

vip lounge

The VIP lounge at the Benguluru International Airport. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

The JLC report had also commented on the design of the terminal building not representing the culture of the state, renaming the airport to honour the city’s founder Kempegowda, and also suggested reopening of the old HAL airport.

BIAL claims it responded in detail to each aspect of the JLC report. Marar, however, declined to share a copy of the same with Citizen Matters.

Standards push

Meanwhile this year the airport has received three certifications including the ISO 27001 for Information Security Management, ISO 14001:2004 for Environment Management and IATA Platinum certification for being the first 100 % Bar Coded Boarding Passes compliant airport in India, says Hungerbuehler.

Marar says the airport has also adopted several environment initiatives including treating of waste water in the nearby sewage treatment plant. "This water is then used for the landscaping." He also says that the design of the terminal building is such that minimal lighting is required during the day between 6 am and 6 pm.

vip lounge area

An animal and plant quarantine facility was inaugurated at the airport in April 2010. Pic courtesy: BIAL

BIA also has an animal quarantine facility which was inaugurated in April this year. The current facility can accommodate ten pets at a time and BIAL has also sought 10 acres of land from the state government at Hesaraghatta for animal quarantine.

Even as this greenfield airport has had a fresh start with regard to technology, infrastructure and airport management, BIAL President Hungerbuehler says that the real challenge is about meeting the demands of passengers and airlines, and ensure coordinated functioning of all systems at the airport.

About Vaishnavi Vittal 139 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

2 Comments

  1. where exactly is this quarantine area? our pets were put in the cargo warehouse which had a horrible environment for animals.

  2. Thank you for an objective positive story about BIAL.

    Having used the airport 4 times I can confirm that the service level is very good.

    Without distracting the general good service levels may I suggest that the airport management needs to continue to make significant improvements to attain the standards that are common in most major North American airports?

    This suggestion is not offered as a gripe but as a friendly suggestion. After all, Bangalore is not a small city in North America. Bangalore can only be compared with Singapore or Toronto.

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