Monday, May 26, 2008

Blog from Bangalore International Airport (BIAL)

Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) launched on Friday night and here I was, on to catch a Sunday night flight. I left my Whitefield house at 9:10 expecting a 2 hr drive. Being a Sunday, traffic was sparse. However, very heavy rains enroute made the Indica drive slow, noisy and a bit worrisome. The highway wasn't very good at draining away the water. Anyway, we reached in 1.5 hours.

Entry into the airport was comfortable, although a decent walk. The counters were well spaced apart and line wasn't long (for my airline at least). After getting Boarding Pass I was informed that I should pay the Rs 1070 User Development Fee (UDF) before joining the Immigration Queue. To pay in cash there are counters at the ground floor. However credit card counter is only on the first floor (where the Departures also are, as I presently saw). When I came to the first floor, I found a chemist shop run by ColumbiaAsia hospitals. This was stocked with usual medicines needed during travel.

The UDF collection counter was further along, but prominently displayed. Much less prominent was the indication that only one of the queues serviced credit cards. In typical careless fashion, the signage was stuck on the counter, below chest level. One could easily miss it and I saw many queue up in the cash line to pay by card. I can expect many fuming travelers.

There were many counters for Immigration but only a few were manned. However, it was definitely enough to cater to all the travelers. After getting past Immigration I went for the security checkin. To be turned back because the immigration guy hadn't stamped my boarding pass. This was but one of the many greenhorns I encountered at the airport. Definitely something that'll get better with age - of the airport.

Once past security, I entered the well lighted international departures area. It had a very well laid out shopping cum refreshments area. Major brands all around. Unlike any Indian airport I've seen. Like any international airport.

A hungry stomach and a thirsty throat (I had left home much before my usual dinner time) led me to the illy-café. This had a few people sitting around on the tables looking bored. I ordered a bite and tea and sat down to try out the free wifi (that I had read about in the newspaper). Turns out you need to send an sms containing WIFI BIAL to 56677. Well, then you get a code back by SMS. You can enter this into the default airport webpage that opens up and go surfing. This key lasts for an hour. In fact, the webpage hosts a countdown timer that even pops up a warning when 5 minutes remain. Wonder whether that SMS is a Rs 6 per SMS types. With the 1 hr lifetime, that could be a revenue model...

The speed wasn't much to write about. Youtube video (my favorite is that Dying Professor's last lecture that I've never been able to get a net connection fast enough to see on). Well it was stopping to load too often and I gave up. Got onto the VPN instead and lost myself in work emails.

Illy-café tea was the same Assam tea bag that we drown in hot water at office. The biscuits were well missed ;) Food wasn't worth mentioning. And ever so often a cold sprinkling of droplets fell from above. Probably leaking AC pipes (I daren't venture other reasons). But this was very disconcerting and I quickly downed the tea and fled. Illy-café deserves ille-saar for the future.

I write this as I sit on the concourse at gate 12. My gate is 20 and it's at the end of the hall. The gates are all placed close to each other.

Finally, I am trying to place this airport in comparison to the ones I have seen. And it definitely doesn't have the feel of an American airport. More like the European ones at Schipohl or Frankfurt. This mayn't be an accident as the contractor is Siemens as I seem to have read somewhere. Albert Brunner the CEO also has an European sounding name, though I'm too lazy to Google him up.

So here I am awaiting my first flight, which is already an hour delayed. And then, it again shows departure as scheduled! What a recovery. Not bad at all - so far.

1 comment:

BIAL said...

Hi Chandradip,

Thank you for your interest in Bengaluru International Airport. Your comments and feedback are appreciated.Your feedback will be taken seriously by us and we will take steps to improve our services. If you have any queries on the airport do feel free to get in touch with us.

Regards,

BIAL Communications team