It’s a move that would be greeted with much glee by harried Bangaloreans, but commercial considerations are understood to have forced the civil aviation ministry to oppose the reopening of the city’s old airport at HAL.
The airport in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd was shut down in 2008 when the GVK-group’s Bangalore International Airport Ltd became operational about 1.5-2.0 hours away from the city center.
According to Indian laws, no two airports are allowed within 150 km of each other, to prevent high competition in the space. However, the rule may be scrapped to allow airports in Navi Mumbai and NOIDA.
For now, however, the civil aviation ministry has turned down a request by the defence ministry to allow HAL to operate the airport.
HAL’s airport is practically in the center of the city and is only about 0.5-1.0 hour away from key areas.
While the public may support the reopening of the HAL airport, such a move is likely to run into ethical issues as the contract for the new airport was given when there was a rule that no other airport would be opened within 150 km.
However, if the government decides to scrap the rule for Mumbai and Delhi airports, it may be possible to scrap it for Bangalore as well.
According to an official request by defence ministry Manohar Parrikar in December, the closure is leading to huge losses for HAL.
HAL has also said that the closure has denied it of revenue of Rs 1,500 cr (per year).
The airport handled 1 crore passengers in the year before closure and had also been upgraded before the move to shut it down for civilian operations.