Air India, BIAL to advance Bengaluru as aviation hub of South India

Plan includes enhanced international connectivity, dedicated lounge in T2 Domestic area for premium customers of Tata Group airlines, and MRO facility.

Air India, BIAL to advance Bengaluru as aviation hub of South India

(L-R) Anil Mathen, airport manager for Air India at Bangalore; Hari Marar, managing director and CEO, BIAL; Campbell Wilson, managing director and CEO, Air India and Satyaki Raghunath, chief operating officer, BIAL. 

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Air India and Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) have entered into an agreement intended to develop Bengaluru as an aviation hub for southern India, with an aim to boost air travel connectivity to and from India over the next few years.

“Air India (along with other Tata Group airlines – AIX and Vistara) and BIAL will collaborate to enhance international connectivity, operational efficiency, and passenger experience over the next five years,” reads the release.

This includes strengthening the group’s presence at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (KIAB or BLR airport) through an enhanced network and establishing a dedicated domestic lounge for premium and frequent travellers of Tata Group airlines Air India and Vistara.

As part of this initiative, Air India has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Karnataka to establish comprehensive Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities at BLR airport.

It also reads, “This underscores Air India's commitment to strengthening its presence in Bengaluru and over time, expand its global footprint to meet the growing demand for direct long-haul routes originating from Southern India. This partnership will stimulate the MRO ecosystem and is projected to generate over 1,200 new job opportunities for highly skilled individuals in the state.”

Campbell Wilson, managing director and CEO of Air India, said, “Airline-airport synergy is key to elevated customer experience and efficient operations, while Bengaluru is highly attractive as an origin and destination market as well as a connecting hub. We are therefore delighted to be strengthening our relationship with BIAL with a view to developing a greater presence at the airport, expanding air connectivity as well as building a major MRO centre. This partnership agreement is a significant milestone in the ongoing transformation of Air India.”

Speaking at the Skift India Summit in Delhi recently, Wilson spoke about the need for Air India to operate multiple hubs within the country. The 92-year-old carrier, which Wilson describes as “a start-up airline”, is investing in everything for an overall transformation.

“This is the wonder of India. India can be home of at least three hubs, and in addition to those three hubs, plenty of point-to-point services. Really, there are not many markets like India in the world. If you take continental Europe, that’s probably a similar sort of market. If you take North America, that’s a similar sort of market. Beyond that, China maybe; but there are only less than a handful of markets that offer a similar opportunity,” Wilson told the delegates in Delhi.

Hari Marar, managing director and CEO, Bangalore International Airport, said, “As the busiest airport in South India, BLR Airport is dedicated to strengthening its position as the primary international gateway in Southern and Central India. This collaboration aligns perfectly with the Ministry of Civil Aviation's vision of developing Indian airports as hubs, reflecting our commitment to enhancing the passenger experience. Given that over half of the international outbound travellers from Bengaluru and our catchment head to Europe, North America, Australia, and the Far East, our alliance with Air India represents a substantial leap towards this goal. We aim to capture a significant share of long-haul routes from BLR Airport over the next five years.”

Air India also announced the appointment of Jayaraj Shanmugam as head of global airport operations effective 15 April. Shanmugam will report to Klaus Goersch, Air India’s executive vice president and chief operations officer. Shanmugam has over two decades of experience in aviation working with airlines like Singapore Airlines, Jet Airways (now defunct), and Qatar Airways. Before taking up the Air India role Shanmugam was with the chief operating officer of Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL). He was with BIAL for four years. He left BIAL in November 2023.

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