HAL, Fairfax keen to reopen old airport

HAL, Fairfax keen to reopen old airport
Canadian billionnaire Prem Watsa-owned Fairfax Group, along with HAL, is gearing up for starting domestic flights from the old airport.

Fairfax, which recently became the single largest stakeholder in Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), and HAL have initiated a dialogue in this regard.  

Other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India, Director General of Civil Aviation and the Karnataka government are also involved in this initiative, sources familiar with the development told DH.

"Fairfax is looking at a solid business model so that operation of the old airport becomes viable. Besides running the airport, Fairfax is ready to get involved in operating a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility or a special economic zone (SEZ) for aerospace industries," said a government source privy to this development.

The possibility of HAL airport resuming operation for domestic flights is currently slim due to the concession agreement signed between the civil aviation ministry and private airport operator. As per the agreement, a second airport within a radius of 150 km from the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) at Devanahalli is not permitted. However, this clause is likely to be relaxed if Fairfax Group, which is operating KIA, does not oppose the move to operate a second airport.

Recently, HAL wrote to the Ministry of Civil Aviation requesting its inclusion in the list of airports identified for regional connectivity scheme UDAN, so that domestic travel can be made affordable.

"I would like to inform you that HAL has written to the civil aviation ministry to include the airport in the list of airports under UDAN. Currently, HAL is not in the list. HAL has the airport infrastructure in Bengaluru to undertake domestic flight operations 24/7," a  HAL spokesperson said.

The move by HAL is viewed by aviation industry experts as a step to lure Fairfax to start operating domestic flights from the defence ministry-owned HAL airport.  

Commenting on the development, Karnataka Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge said the state government is ready to cooperate with the Centre and Fairfax to run the HAL airport in a profitable way. "It will boost the tourism and industrial sectors of the state. The central business district of Bengaluru is looking at an airport which eases traffic and expands connectivity,” Kharge said.


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