Aviation sector soars high after two-year turbulence, traffic recovers to pre-COVID level 

The year 2022 started on a bleak note for the aviation sector. The outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 meant there would be no immediate resumption of international flights, which were to commence on December 15, 2021.

Like the rest of the world, India had shut its airspace in the wake of the pandemic. The last scheduled international flight to operate after the pandemic outbreak was on March 23, 2020, and in the last two years, only repatriation flights and flights under the air bubble arrangements with a few select countries were allowed to operate.

With Omicron not posing a major threat, the Ministry of Civil Aviation opened up the international airspace on March 27, the same day the DGCA’s summer schedule commences. Among the unlock measures were doing away with reserving three vacant seats on international flights for medical emergencies, and discontinuing the practice of airline crew wearing complete PPE kit.

With COVID cases declining, in November, the Ministry announced that masks were no longer mandatory on flights.

New routes from KIA

Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), which is the third busiest in the country after Delhi and Mumbai, added several new routes and reconnected to some old routes which were suspended following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Australian carrier Qantas began four weekly flights to Sydney from September 14, and United Airlines announced it would begin daily flights to San Francisco in the last quarter of this year.

Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operator of the airport, said two weekly flights to Tel Aviv (Air India) and daily flights to Seattle (American Airlines) are also planned for the near future.

New routes, which were launched a few months before the outbreak of the pandemic, were also re-connected, which are Addis Ababa (by Ethiopian Airlines), Amsterdam (by KLM), and Tokyo Narita (by Japan Airlines). Air India also resumed its non-stop flight connecting Bengaluru to San Francisco.

Emirates also introduced its flagship A380 to Bengaluru this year, making it the second city in India to be serviced by the world’s largest passenger aircraft. With the commencement of daily service by the A380, Bengaluru has joined the Emirates’ network of over 30 destinations served by the double-decker aircraft.

Another view of Kempegowda International Airport T2.
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First phase of T2

The much awaited first phase of Terminal 2 at KIA was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 11. Located on the northeastern side of Terminal 1 and designed by New York-based architectural firm SOM, the 255,661 square metre Terminal 2, is a dedication to Bengaluru.

The four guiding principles that have influenced the design and architecture of Terminal 2 are – terminal in a garden, sustainability, technology, and art and culture.

According to BIAL, Terminal 2 is designed as a tribute to the Garden city of Bengaluru and the passenger experience is meant to be a walk in the garden. Passengers will travel through 10,000 plus sq.m. of green walls, hanging gardens and outdoor gardens and these gardens are made in India using indigenous technology.

A total of 620 endemic plants, 3,600 plus plant species, 150 palm species, 7,700 transplanted trees, 100 varieties of lilies, 96 lotus species and 180 rare, endangered and threatened species and 10 ecological habitats make up the lush green landscape at the Airport, around T2.

The construction of the T2 began in October 2018 with BIAL planning to build it in two phases. Phase 1, covering 255,645 square meters, will cater to 25 million passengers per annum (MPPA), while the second phase which is still in planning stage would be able to handle 20 million MPPA. Once both the Phases are completed T2 can handle 70 MPPA.

In total, BIAL has invested ₹13,000 crore for a slew of infrastructure projects at the airport, which includes a new terminal, a second runway, expansion of access roads, internal road projects, utilities, and a new multi-modal transport hub.

Phase 1 of T2 was initially to be inaugurated by March 31, 2021. However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the completion of work was delayed.

Digi Yatra

DigiYatra App was successfully rolled out at KIA. DigiYatra is a contactless, seamless processing of passengers at airports, based on the use of single token face biometrics for verification of passengers. For the first phase rollout of the DigiYatra Central Ecosystem, KIA was one of the two selected airports in India and passengers experienced this new-age, contactless and seamless process.

Pre-COVID traffic level

According to BIAL, during the week of Deepavali, the airport witnessed over 5.2 lakh domestic passenger movements in a span of six days. The international passenger traffic was recorded at around 70,000 travellers.

However, in December, air traffic recovered to pre-COVID level with the airport handling about one lakh passengers a day. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, KIA handled about one lakh passengers a day and now it has reached the same levels.

Of the one lakh passengers handled by the airport in a day, around 85% to 87% is domestic and the remaining is international passengers. Domestic and international, arrival and departure all put together the airport is handling 600 to 650 Air Traffic Movements per day.

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