The History And Rise Of Bangalore International Airport

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Now India’s third busiest airport, Bangalore International Airport has risen to prominence in the last decade. Since its inauguration, the airport has grown remarkably, adding a second runway last December and carrying 32 million passengers in 2019. However, Bangalore has an interesting history of airports, with its previous being quite memorable.

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Bangalore International Airport has grown quickly to become the country’s third busiest airport. Photo: Getty Images

A brief history

Before Kempegowda International Airport opened in 2008, Bangalore had a smaller airport, known as HAL Airport. The previous airport gets its name from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a state-owned aerospace and defense company.

The airport was constructed in 1940 by the founder of HAL, who used the airport as a manufacturing and testing site for military aircraft. During World War 2, the British Army used the airport as a base to protect against Japanese attack on India (then a British colony).

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HAL Airport served as a military base during World War 2. Photo: Aiel via Flickr

The airport was then used exclusively by HAL for military helicopter and fighter jet production until the late 70s. The airport is placed strategically at the center of Bangalore, providing easy connectivity to the city. in the late 70s, the airport began being used for domestic flights and from there quickly expanded.

By 2005, the airport was servicing multiple international carriers, such as Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France. However, the airport only had a single runway and limited parking space, with only six aircraft aprons. In 2007, the airport had over 8 million passing through every year, more than double its capacity of 3.6 million.

A new airport

Seeing the exponential rise of traffic at the single-runway HAL Airport, the government moved to begin construction on a new major airport for Bangalore in 2005. However, due to land constraints, the new airport has been built 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the city center, reducing connectivity.

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The new hub was originally named Bangalore International Airport, before being officially renamed to Kempegowda International Airport in 2013 to honor the founder of the city. The new airport had a single terminal and runway, but with space to build one more, and could accommodate up to 25 million passengers.

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Bangalore’s new airport opened in 2009. Photo: PageImp via Wikimedia Commons

Bangalore’s passenger traffic continued to rise, giving way to an expanded terminal in 2013 and a brand-new runway in 2019. The airport is a hub for AirAsia India and IndiGo, with all major Indian airlines flying here. It also hosts 24 foreign airlines, including Air Mauritius, Emirates, KLM, and Cathay Pacific.

Bangalore has also emerged as a hub for many regional Indian airlines. Airlines such as TruJet and Star Air fly out of Bangalore, serving other cities in the state of Karnataka and neighboring cities such as Hyderabad.

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Bangalore Airport
Several key airlines serve the airport. Photo: Getty Images

Growth to continue

While Bangalore International Airport has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade, it shows no signs of stopping. The airport’s newly-made second runway allows for increased traffic at the hub and will help airlines further expand operations.

Many airlines are planning expanded operations from the airport. Lufthansa had previously planned to add a 5-times weekly service to Munich using an A350-900, but this has been pushed to at least August. British Airways started flying its flagship A350s to Bangalore earlier this year as well. While traffic may have slowed, for now, Bangalore Airport is using this time to repair its original runway and prepare for future resumptions.

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Bangalore was one of the first cities to receive the British Airways A350. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

From personal experience, I can also say Bangalore Airport is the easiest transfer airport in India. Since all flights depart from a single terminal transferring from an international to domestic flight takes less than five minutes. Definitely fly through Bangalore on your next trip to India!

Have you flown through HAL Airport or Bangalore International Airport? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!

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