My colleague Mani Chandrasekaran just posted a piece about the new Bangalore airport which is due to be completed in 2008. He began by saying “Most airports, in India, dont really compare to the modern airports around the world”, which reminded me that I had promised you a little rant about my experiences at Bangalore airport. So here it is.
If you remember, I was flying from Bangalore to Mumbai to connect with a flight to London. My Jet Airways flight from Bangalore was repeatedly delayed, and I wound up missing my connection. In these circumstances, when you’re stuck in the departure lounge waiting for a flight, most people need two things: refreshment and information.
Refreshments: none. Correction: one water fountain of dubious quality, and nothing else: no food, no beverages. No bottled water, no vending machines, no kiosk, no cafe. Zip.
Information: Here’s where it really gets absurd. Scattered around the lounge were half a dozen televisions. These were used for three purposes: to show advertisements, to display flight information, and to carry a live TV feed. There was no other source of flight information. It quickly became apparent that there was no particular sequence or tempo as to what was shown when. Unless you watched intently you were likely to miss the occasional brief flight status displays.
But it gets worse. It just so happened that India was playing Sri Lanka at cricket that evening, and the match was very exciting. India was winning: many of the ~250 waiting travellers jostled for the best seats to watch the TV, and when their heroes like Tendulkar and Sehwag were facing the bowling you could forget about anything else. Whoever was controlling the system wasn’t going to bother with trivia like flight information (or even advertising). At one point there were 20 uninterrupted minutes of cricket….
I would have taken a few pictures of this place for you, but of course photography is absolutely forbidden at all Indian airports. In any case, the lesson is clear: if you’re going to fly out of Bangalore, make sure you have bottled water and snacks with you, and be prepared to grab a seat in front of the TV. And if anyone from the airport reads this, I’m sure you can afford a few extra monitors to dedicate to flight information. Because we’re not there to watch cricket, we’re bloody well there to fly!
(Thanks. I feel much better now.)
P.S. The December’05 issue of Airliner World (excellent magazine, lousy website) includes a piece on p.68 about the critical state of the commercial aviation infrastructure in India. Airport parking places, terminal facilities, ground services, air traffic control – in every area, demand is outstripping supply, exposing a serious lack of investment. And this also applies to aircrew: a conservative estimate is that India needs an extra 1,200 pilots.