Bangalore, May 24: Surviving protests, debate and inordinate delay, the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) finally commenced commercial operations late tonight with the take off of the Singapore bound Air India flight IC 957 at 0015 hrs. The launch of operations of the green field airport, situated about 40 km North of the city near Devanahalli, had been postponed thrice due to different reasons, while there had been protests by pro-Kannada activists, who demanded, among other things, naming the airport on erstwhile ruler of the city, Kempegowda.
At last the Rs 2,470-crore airport spread over 4,000 acres saw the daylight with the take off of the Air India flight. Earlier, Air India flight IC 609 landed at 2237 hrs became the first commercial flight to land in the BIA. Later the A 320 Airbus flew to Singapore as IC 957.
The Air India flight's Captain Ishwar Pal said,''It is a honour to fly the first flight out of greenfield BIA. It is a proud moment for all of us. You have everything you can ask for in an International airport at the BIA.'' BIA CEO Albert Brunner looked visibly happy and relieved. ''I had been waiting for this moment for many years. This is the happiest day in my life. This is a proud moment for all Bangaloreans. Our work is not over, it had just begun. We will strive to set a benchmark for all other airports in the country,'' Mr Brunner said.
The transition to the new airport was smooth as BIA followed the same flight schedule of the HAL airport and flights operating after midnight made a seamless shift to the new airport.
BIA is promoted by a consortium of Zurich International Airports Ltd, Siemens and the L and T. Karnataka holds 26 per cent stake in the project. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is also a stake holder in the airport.