BIAL expansion drive hits heli-taxi service in B’luru

BIAL expansion drive hits heli-taxi service in Bengaluru

Staff clean a four-bladed, single-engined Bell 407 utility helicopter of Thumby Aviation at Electronics City. The aircraft which is capable of seating six people, was used as part of shuttle service from Electronics City to a helipad at BIAL from March 20

Efforts by the Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) to expand infrastructure have scuppered a plan to reintroduce a heli-taxi service at the airport.

Until May 2019, the airport’s helipad, located along the secondary access road near the Blue Dart-DHL Cargo Complex, was supporting heli-taxi operations. The helipad is now a casualty to a new 10-lane access road and the expansion of the roundabout. 

The BIAL defended the razing of the pad by claiming that heli-taxis “do not constitute a mass-transit option,” and that there were no plans to relocate the helipad to another sector of the 4,000-acre airport facility.

Thumby Aviation, an air transport firm operating a heli-taxi from Electronics City to the airport until May 2019, said it was transporting nearly 166 people on average to and fro from the airport per month before the helipad was removed because of the start of road work.

With the heli-taxi now using Jakkur airport as a drop-off point, the service has seen an 81.9% reduction in demand. 

“On average, there are only about four or six shuttle trips a month, comprising a total of 24-30 people going to Jakkur,” said a source familiar with the matter.

These reductions come down to the issue of time, explained Govind Nair, director of Thumby’s Business Development.

“Earlier, flights from Electronics City to the airport helipad, covering a distance of 38 kilometres, took 13 minutes. Now, the flight to Jakkur aerodrome takes 11 minutes, after which passengers face a 25-minute cab ride to the airport,” Nair said. 

The BIAL said it has no plans to introduce a mass-transit service to the airport of its own.

“At this point, the BIAL is developing several large infrastructure projects on the Bengaluru Airport campus. Other projects and services will be considered once the infrastructure is completed,” a spokesperson said.

Urban planner Ashwin Mahesh said infrastructural development of all kinds must be supported at the airport.

“Air traffic in Bengaluru is growing faster than anywhere else in the country and it is important to fund infrastructure developments at the airport. In fact, as the city sprawls, a moment will come when the city might need a second airport. Considering that we are a border city, we wouldn’t want to lose passengers to an airport facility in Tamil Nadu, for example,” he said.

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