Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
BIAL--Bengaluru's new airport
I did not take this picture, I copied it from the official site BIAL (Bengaluru International Airport, Ltd) I did not take any pictures at the new airport because I was busy arguing with Indian government officials.
After some delays the new airport opened about a week before Donna and I took off for a visit to the US. Compared to the old airport which, at least for the time being is closed, BIAL is beautiful. Clean, spacious, new, it would be at home in a midsized US city.
Donna and I arrived, located our paper work and pushed our 4 large suitcases up to the door where a security guard verified our e-ticket receipts before letting us in the airport. At the old airport you could not get one suitcase out of your car before someone would show up offering to move your luggage for you--for an unspecified fee. I guess the long commute, about 50 kilometers form the old airport has at least for now put those people out of business.
Once inside we were greeted by a vendor who offered to wrap our luggage in plastic sheeting for Rs 200 (~$4.50) per bag. I declined, but while we waited in the check-in line Donna went back and had the one with the most expensive things wrapped. I can't say the Air France check-in was more efficient but at least there was space to wait your turn without being jostled by people trying to move about in the airport.
We then went upstairs and paid our user development fee. Eventually this will be added to the cost of tickets but since when we bought tickets no-one knew when the airport would open it was not include with our tickets. Next we handed our immigration forms to the immigration officer, who studied our passports, counted on his fingers and told us we need our registration papers. Foreigners living in India more than six months need to register within 14 days of arrival. We knew that. We didn't know we needed those documents to leave the country after we'd been there more than six months.
The papers were at home, a longer drive than the time left before the plane was scheduled to leave. And it was unlikely that Joseph (our driver who was on his way home) would be able to find them. After a long discussion with the immigration supervisor about the fact that we could not prove we had registered he examined my IBM badge and let me write and sign a letter saying we had in fact registered. He warned us that if it was untrue we would not be allowed in the country again.
Next we passed through security. There are separate lines for men and women so that women are patted down by women and men by men. Women do it in a small privacy booth but men are out in the open. Carry on bags goes through the same kind of X-ray machines used in the US. And a tag on each bag is stamped to show it has passed inspection. Except for some reason mine were not stamped. When we got to the gate, boarding was well under way but we could not board until someone took my laptop bag back to be re-inspected and stamped.
We were not the last ones to board the plane--but close to it.
Once in the US I e-mailed Swapna, my helpful international assignees representative with IBM who e-mailed me back scanned copies of our registration papers so we could get back into the country. Of course when I passed through immigration on arrival the officer did not ask for it.
The baggage claim area is another big improvement in BIAL. There are 5 baggage carousels and none of them grab protruding straps and handles on luggage and jam the system like the lone carousel in the old airport enjoyed doing. Also you do not have the assistance of 5 men who will carry your 4 bags and then demand 200 rupees a piece for their service. On the other hand only one of my two bags actually arrived. Apparently in all that space there is no baggage service counter because the Air France representatives who took claims forms from about a dozen passengers missing luggage work out of a folder on a window ledge. A very nice marble window ledge of course.
Since my bag would have to clear customs without me the customs official wanted to know what was in it and in particular was there any electronic equipment. Since I was transporting the laptop projector belonging to the CMC I declared it. He then want to charge me 36% of the cost of the projector as import duty; Because how did he know I wasn't planning to sell it. He seemed to be impressed that my business card said "Chairman, GEIA Compact Model Council" and let me sign another letter saying I would not sell the projector and would take it back to the US with me when I left.
Joseph was waiting patiently for me two hours after I landed and took me home on the (mostly) nice, new, deserted at 2:00am, airport access road.