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Setting operational benchmarks

Posted: 29 September 2009 | Marcel Hungerbuehler, CEO of Bangalore International Airport Limited | No comments yet

Realising the dream of giving Bangalore an airport of world class standards has not been an easy one. If not for the relentless commitment and enthusiasm of the thousands of people involved in the making of the airport, the many complex issues faced could have slackened the pace and the outcome.

Realising the dream of giving Bangalore an airport of world class standards has not been an easy one. If not for the relentless commitment and enthusiasm of the thousands of people involved in the making of the airport, the many complex issues faced could have slackened the pace and the outcome.

On May 24 this year, one year from the airport opening date, the airport handled over 8.7 million passengers and over 120,000 aircraft movements. We have come a long way in these 13 months of operations and can proudly say that we have reached a high level of efficiency.

Departure punctuality reached over 80% in the last few months, within 15 minutes of scheduled time. Baggage delivery remained constant over several months and stands at seven minutes of the first baggage being on the belt for both domestic and international arrivals. By international standards, this is a good record.

It was an overnight transition from the old airport to the new one. An airport startup is always a delicate issue. All of the processes have to come together at the same time and everything has to work. As is the case with all new mega projects, it took some time for the processes to fall into place and all departments/systems to work hand in hand. It was pleasing to observe that operations stabilised in just two weeks from the airport opening day.

Factors of economic significance, including the increased fuel jet prices in June 2008, as well as the recent financial crises, no doubt cast a shadow on the sterling growth of the Indian aviation sector and this new airport. These issues resulted in higher air fares and a drop in passenger volumes. However, given all factors, it would have been extremely unreasonable for anyone to expect the industry to continue growing at the astronomical 40% growth witnessed in 2007 year on year. The industry was bound to stabilise at some point and now that seems to be evident. In fact, it has been so since March last year, before we opened the Bengaluru International Airport. However, we estimate that the traffic will pick up again in 2011-2012.

The encouraging part is that although domestic traffic has dropped, the last year has seen the introduction of six new international air carriers into Bangalore, making more global destinations directly accessible to air travellers. These include Dragon Air, Tiger Airways, Oman Air, Air Mauritius and Saudi Arabian Airlines. Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines also began international operations, with flights to London, Colombo and Dubai. This increase is largely due to the city’s attractive air traffic passenger profile and the increased capacity of the new airport. As a result, the number of passengers on international flights increased by 7% when compared to the previous year.

I am convinced that this airport is well on its way to becoming one of the leading airports in operational efficiency in the country. As a team, we have stayed true to our focus of providing world class service and are pleased that recent passenger opinion of our performance and service is very positive.

From an operations point of view, the first year was critical for the stabilisation of the airport processes and facilities. The feedback of the airlines and passengers matter the most to us. We provide a cost competitive environment for the airlines to operate in and the passengers receive hassle free services, so both are happy with the new airport. It is heartening to note that the opening of the airport has not been the only milestone; we have also been able to make significant announcements and developments which are industry firsts here in India.

AOCC

Spearheading a new approach to the airport operations, BIAL pioneered the concept of the Airport Operations Control Center (AOCC) in India. Operational Airport Management, a concept that is new to Indian airports, ensures smooth and efficient airport operations. The AOCC is the nerve center of the Bengaluru International Airport, from which the collaborative decision making process of all the organisations involved with the airport is facilitated.

The AOCC is crucial in operational recovery in times of disruption and delays. 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. This improves processes, leading to high punctuality of the flights.

Cargo

Continuing to enhance the airport’s infrastructure, Bengaluru International Airport recently inaugurated the country’s first Cargo Village. Spread over 11 acres of land area, the facility, located near the cargo terminals, is expected to strengthen Bangalore’s position as a trade and commercial hub, while ensuring faster clearances of import and export consignments from the cargo terminals at the airport.

Airport infrastructure

Bengaluru International Airport is the first airport in India to be connected by an off-site Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) pipeline meeting international quality standards. A 33 km underground pipeline has been commissioned by the airport’s fuel farm concessionaire IndianOil Skytanking Limited (IOSL). The pipeline, running from Devanagonthi to the airport fuel farm, has a capacity to pump over 156,000 litres of ATF per hour. The second unique operation by IOSL is the single man into-plane fuelling on the apron.

2D Bar Code compliant

BIAL has future-proofed the Bengaluru International Airport by making it 2D bar code compliant, a standard that the industry has set a deadline to implement by the end of 2010. Mobile phone check-in enables airlines to send 2D bar codes directly to a passenger’s mobile phone, personal digital assistant or smart phone. Passengers simply register their mobile number with their airline at the time of booking to receive a text message with a 2D bar code, or instructions to download it. The bar code becomes the passenger’s boarding pass and it is read directly from the screen of the mobile device, eliminating paper completely from the check-in process.

The airport has also future-proofed the solution by deploying Access Boarding Gate Reader BGR 250, which supports 1D and 2D symbologies with visible and audible passenger and agent display recognition.

The airport has taken the lead by deploying this solution and being the first airport in the country ready for mobile check-in as airlines are gearing up for the same, be it at check-in counters, boarding gates or customer operated self service kiosks.

Business Continuity Management (BCM)

BCM is absolutely critical in any business today, including airports. Bangalore International Airport Limited has implemented Business Continuity Management as one of our mainstream activities. Our BCM is a holistic and on going management process, intended to identify potential hazards of varying size and severity that threaten the organisation/business. It provides a framework of building resilience by developing and maintaining appropriate response plans, as well as cost-effective alternative resources to safeguard the interest of key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value creating activities.

Enhanced communication system – E-Konfer

A web based emergency alert and group communication system has been developed exclusively for Bengaluru International Airport. It acts as the backbone for all secondary communication at the airport. Inbuilt with technologically advanced features, such as group audio and text message broadcasting and conferencing, E-Konfer provides the vital tools that the duty staff at the airport require to alert the teams of the developing situation without loss of time.

ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting)

In what is considered highly prestigious, Bengaluru International Airport’s ARFF team was selected for an industrial visit by the Divisional Fire Officers course trainees from the National Fire Service College, located in Nagpur. This is the highest training forum for Government fire officers in India for studying the ARFF preparedness of BIAL. The Karnataka Government Fire officer trainees from RA Mukundkur Fire and Emergency Service Academy also undergo a study tour of our airport facilities as part of their training curriculum

These are ongoing programmes and our airport is both proud and pleased to be able to share our knowledge, experience and expertise with these groups.

The first year accolade – Routes award

Bangalore International Airport Limited’s efforts of developing and maintaining positive and productive relationships with airlines are reflected in it winning the Routes Asia Airport Marketing award on March 30, 2009. Five airports competed for this award in the Indian sub-continent. In these times of economic slowdown, it is considered a major achievement for an airport to keep its route network and traffic base stable, let alone secure new routes.

With regard to new airlines, BIAL is constantly looking at attracting new airlines to make Bangalore a regional hub for South India. Currently, we are focusing on bringing in airlines like Air Asia, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, China Eastern Airways, China Southern, Jazeera Airways, Japan Airlines, ANA Airways, Private Air and many more to connect the city to destinations like Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bahrain, Guangzhou, Beijing, Narita, Tokyo and Amsterdam.

Showcasing airport shopping – the first ever airport Shopping Festival at Bangalore

For an evolved passenger, the air travel requirements go beyond a beautifully laid out airport and its aesthetic appeal. Passengers are noticing improvements in retail facilities at airports with more opportunities to shop, eat and drink. These were not aspects felt most important in days gone by and are now being enjoyed at the privatised airports.

Setting new trends in travel retail, the airport held a shopping festival in the summer holiday season for the first time ever in the country. The festival saw overwhelming participation from both passengers and visitors to the airport. Through this shopping festival, the airport succeeded in propagating the state’s cultural vibrancy and the various tourist destinations within it. This was the first time that an Indian airport had hosted a festival of this magnitude, combining travel, tourism and shopping. The participating passengers availed of a host of discounts and promotions around airport shopping and food and beverages.

Through this month-long extravaganza, the airport succeeded in creating a connection with the city and the local culture, at the same time generating excitement among passengers who are already looking forward to the airport’s next festival.

Current focus

In the current scenario, the aviation industry is witnessing a slow-down and the carriers are facing constraints. We realised that airlines can make even bigger losses due to poor airport infrastructure, as they cannot manage timely landings and departures. But with efficient airport processes and world class infrastructure being introduced, airlines are able to work more optimally, especially in terms of network planning, scheduling and fleet utilisation, resulting in huge cost savings.

As airports, it is critical for us to focus on understanding the needs of the airlines, as well as the passengers. A passenger requires processes that aid in a quick entry and exit from the airport and an airline looks for cost effective options to help make air travel affordable, along with processes which help in planning their ground operations and maximise on operating hours.

The role of good airports and efficient air traffic management cannot be emphasised enough for successful and profit making airlines. With civil aviation in India focusing on upgrading airports, the reality of Indian airports becoming world-class is not far away. However, there still is a long way to go. The development of this infrastructure has to continue without losing pace.