Florine Roche
Pics: Joshwa D'Souza
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru

Mangaluru, Mar 10: A slew of measures have been undertaken in the last two-three years to improve the infrastructure, efficiency, safety, security and facilities of the passengers at the Mangalore International Airport. These measures are now becoming operational one by one, thus bringing about an overall improvement in infrastructure and in the quality of service provided to the passengers at this airport. The second taxiway, addition of two aero bridges, shifting of high frequency omni range radar from Kaikamba to the airport area, installing primary radar near old airport, enhancing parking base for aircraft from 6 to 8, completion of exit road, more flights to Gulf, Bengaluru and Mumbai - these are some of the facilities that will add to the existing infrastructure at the airport.

In addition, the work pertaining to expansion of the international arrival hall with additional conveyor belt facility will be in place within the next two yours. The state government and district administration has been working on the process of land acquisition for the crucial work of extension of the existing runway which is very important for safety and also to enable larger aircrafts to operate from this airport.

Crucial time saver

The eagerly awaited second parallel taxiway at MIA is now in the final stages and is getting ready for operation by the end of April 2016. With this Mangalore International Airport (MIA) will be able to handle air traffic more effectively and without delays. This 2nd taxiway has been a major and persistent requirement as the existing single taxiway used to cause delays. The taxiway is an important link between the runway and apron near the terminal building and presently only one taxiway is used for entry and exits, resulting in delays.

Director of Airport J T Radhakrishna talking to daijiworld.com pointed out that as of now aircrafts which are ready for takeoff have to wait for 15 to 20 minutes if the arrival and departure of flights coincide. "Now some electrical and drain work is pending and this is expected to be completed within the next two months. Only when a flight arrived is parked the other flight can move out. As such, it causes delays and inconvenience to the passengers. But with the 2nd taxiway we will be able to address this issue of flight delays and with this we are fulfilling one of the major demands of the passengers. The new taxiway will come in handy in the long run particularly when the number of flights are expected to increase in the airport once the expansion work of the runway gets completed.

The work of the 2000 meters long 2nd taxiway which is carried out in two phases had begun in September 2014. The first phase includes completion of 1200 metres - 600 meters each on the east and 600 meters on the west. "We have completed all the major work on the 2nd taxiway and now only the electrical and work on drains is pending. This will be completed by the end of April," Radhakrishna stated. He further pointed out that the remaining 800 meters of the work is expected to be completed by December this year. "The second phase of the work will commence only after we are done with this task on hand. We need another 100 crore for the next phase as there is a huge valley that comes in this area."

Radhakrishna also pointed out that with the increase in aircraft movement and also with an overall 25 per cent passenger growth this year there is a necessity to increase the aerobridges. Hence two additional aerobridges will be introduced for the convenience of passengers within a year’s time probably by March 2017. But the groundwork for the process for the same has already begun says Radhkrishna. Mangalore experiences rainfall for about four months and the aerobridge facility will be a great boon to the passengers.

Exit road ready in a month

Another important facility which will help ease the vehicular traffic movement on the airport road will be the completion of the two lane exit road. At the moment the entry road is being used for two-way traffic causing inconvenience and confusion. Work on the exit road which had begun in 2013 is finally getting completed soon and will be thrown open to public in a month’s time. If everything goes as per the plan, by first week of April Mangalore International Airport will have separate entry and exit points.

More flights to Gulf

There is good news for Gulf passengers, who comprise a sizeable chunk of the passengers using Mangalore International Airport. Plans are in the offing to increase frequency of flights to Dubai and an additional flight to Dammam and Sharjah is also in the pipeline. For domestic customers especially those travelling to Bengaluru and Mumbai there is something to cheer about in the form of additional flights from Mangalore. Presently there are 10 flights to Bengaluru on a daily basis and Jet Airways is introducing two new flights to this route and one additional flight to Mumbai from March 27, 2016.

More spacious International arrival hall

An important grouse of international passengers at MIC is the delay in the collection of luggage on arrival as there is only one conveyor belt and lack of space at the arrival hall. To address this problem plans are mooted to add two more conveyor belts to the existing one. This is a major work in terms of cost and time required for its implementation. A separate building has to be constructed for this purpose and for this the deep valley in the vicinity needs to be filled. The cost of the new building is estimated at about Rs. 40 crore and it will take about two years for its completion. However, steps will be taken to immediately increase the space at the international arrival hall for the convenience of the travellers.

By December 2016, the parking base of aircrafts at MIA will go up to 8 from the existing six flights. The work on the pavements has already started. This will again help in reducing the delay in boarding and de-boarding of passengers.

On the communication front, plans are underway to shift the high frequency Omni range radar will be shifted from Kaikamba to the airport. Radars help in proper navigation of the aircraft on ground and on air and shifting it from Kaikamba will give a big relief to the residents in and around Kaikamba apart from enhancing the safety measure at the airport.

However, the crucial work on the extension of the runway by about 2000 feet, a suggestion mooted to increase the safety, is yet to commence. Radhakrishna stated that the responsibility of acquiring 93 acres of land required for the purpose vests with the district administration of Mangalore. As the surrounding acquisition site is a deep valley the expansion work requires a huge investment of about Rs. 300 crores. It is said that the district administration has submitted a proposal to Karnataka government in this regard.

As regards the controversy surrounding scuffle between the airport taxi drivers association and online taxi giant Ola cab he clarified that the Airport Taxi Association is paying Rs. 1.5 lakhs per month for running the service. This association is functioning for more than 25 years and comprise drivers from around the airport area as part of a welfare measure. But he says passengers arrive or depart in their private vehicles need not pay any amount if they leave the building within 7 minutes of their arrival.

Rumours – A distraction tactic

Clarifying on the issue of rumours being floated concerning the safety, security, immigration, traffic management and convenience Radhakrishna dispelled them as an orchestrated ploy to divert the real issue. "Of course there are a few security issues which might prove irksome to the travellers. But every officer has to go through the personal profile of the traveller and a few questions will be asked. It is a normal process and passengers should not consider it as an affront and should cooperate. We the officials have to be extra cautious with regard to security issues in the prevailing situation and we cannot be easy-going on this aspect," he declared.

He further added, "Now the airport is completely automated there should not be ambiguity in this regard. If officials treat the passengers badly it will be there on record. He also stated that the recent allegation about tearing visa of passengers by customs officials is unfounded. However, he urged the passengers not to get swayed by such rumours and to bring to the notice of the concerned if they any issues pertaining to their travel. "The very fact that we are able to catch those who smuggle the yellow metal vindicates us. It is only the affected people who vent their anger on us out of frustration," he explained.