On Sunday, we went to drop MA and also to check out the BIAL airport in Devanahalli, only to find there is nothing international about it. If you are expecting another Changi, Heathrow, O'Hare or a JFK, hold your breath --- Its not even a patch on any of them, which is self-evident when you are confronted with a very smallish glass and concrete structure standing in the middle of nowhere with construction debris strewn all around for company.
For an idea of how BIG this structure is :: on the outside, you can walk from one end (departure) of this small structure to the other end (arrival) in 10 minutes flat (It being a Sunday the place was swarming in the evening with curious on-lookers with families in tow to gawk at the nondescript airport in no-mans' land).
[UPDATE1 : the 10 min is walking outside the building only, from the time you alight at the bus-stand to the arrival area, and not the time taken to alight a flight and exit with luggage in tow. Minus the Sat/Sunday on-lookers it should hardly take 5 min and less than that with no luggage. That is how small the international structure is.]
Last year when HU had come over and visited the construction site at devanahalli, i went along out of sheer curiosity. Being a weekday and peak traffic time to boot, it took 2.5 hours just to reach devanahalli. We entered via the runway and speeding on the parallel service track was sheer fun. I imagine the runway would be an F1 track (*grin*) which they ought to be. We climbed the ATC tower, got the obligatory snaps, and midway DA got bored and tired of all the exposure in the hot sun, wanted to leave asap (imagine 2 women in a construction site and you know why). I had seen the terminal then and thought there would be a separate one for international flights atleast. On Sunday, 2008May25 I realised i was wrong.
Let's start again... For a late evening flight (8pm'ish) we left home at 4pm and trudged to the nearest bus-stand, luggage et al. Yeah, driving raises my blood pressure and i dont own a 4-wheeler. So what used to be a hop-skip-and-jump to the airport in 15 min by auto, is now a torturous 2 hour fuel-guzzling environment polluting 50km unnecessary ride. I like to receive/drop my friends and family to the station/airport/bus-stand when ever they come over. That will soon change atleast as far as the airport is concerned. There are 9 bus-stands and it takes 2 hours to get there, not including the time spent idling waiting for the bus to start or the time taken to get to the bus station.
We got talking to the conductor and he said the Majestic Volvo route makes 30,000 rupees per day and other routes too get good earnings. The fares are steep -- Volvo AC bus is 150 bucks single fare one-way and a bmtc bus costs 80 bucks one-way --when you compare the same volvo AC bus from Chennai Central Train station to Tiruvanmiyur (around 25 km) costs just 25 rupees, yeah just 25 bucks ! So do the Bangalore Volvo buses have special wings that they charge three times the amount for the same distance???
The bus conductors are made to do 24 hours duty but only get paid 4 hours over-time on the basic pay and get one day off .... so they work 4 days a week 24 hours at a stretch, which seems harsh.
From the bus-station to the swanky small structure is a distance of a
quarter kilometer and if it rains, which is all the time in bangalore, be
prepared to get drenched. There are no rest rooms for those who come to see-off
their kith and kin...there is one half a km away and if you are hungry of
thirsty be prepared to shell out more than 50 bucks for a bottle of
[Addendum : Private taxis charge Rs 950-1000/- for a single journey. If you are wondering why they charge you the return fare, its coz they claim they have to make the return journey to the city with no passengers hence you will pay them for a journey you dont make.]
Once inside the airport its chaos, the ground-staff dont belong to the individual airlines, rather they are all contracted employees by BIAL who have not been adequately trained on how to use the computer, printer, and check-in passengers. To their credit they are polite but heck that does not stop the confusion with long queues and irritated passengers left holding confirmed tickets with no flights to board....not nice.
The inside is not very impressive nor is it spacious and departures are on the second level -- local flights to the left and international flights to the right (empty when we were there). After security check tons of floor space has been devoted to malls and shops ...you name the brand and its there. So it does seem that in all this, apparently only the promoters seem to benefit financially at the expense of the tax-paying public, money** is being thrown to the winds. After all the so-called glowing reports the reality is slowly seeping out.
[** User development fee/toll/service fee, call it whatever you like but the user (common citizens) should not have to pay ridiculous prices/fees for airport related services had the government done an iota of city planning. Instad they give away 4000 acres of real estate almost for free to a private company which is the sole beneficiary, not the government. In what way is the government earning? -- Taxes ? No, ...then its lost earnings and indirectly a waste of public money (read 4000 acres of land).]