Competition heats up in airport rides

Air travelers in Bangalore can now choose to commute to the new airport to suit their convenience and budget, thanks to the various transport options available.

It’s just a few months since the Bangalore International Airport began functioning, and already a race is on among various service providers to transport air travellers to the airport. Initial apprehensions about the airport being not approachable has led to the sprouting of various businesses to resolve the problem.

A Vayu Vajra Bus (Volvo) waiting to start its journey on the BIAL route. Pic: Supriya Khandekar.

The services available to reach the airport are in a range to fit all pockets. On one hand is the BMTC’s BIAL Volvo bus service that claims to offer the cheapest ride. On the other hand are the private city taxis which offer luxurious personal transport but for a higher fare. In between these services is a relatively new concept of a shared yet luxurious ride — an airport shuffle that ferries five people at a time in spacious cars.

To the airport in style

The airport shuffle, introduced by Airlift, is established on the shared ride concept followed in 30 international airports in the world, says Arun Nemani, CEO. The service is exclusively for air travelers, and it lets you share your ride with four other people in an air-conditioned Toyota Innova car with bucket seats to ensure privacy. Each passenger gets an exclusive entertainment system, and costs Rs.300 for a single trip and Rs.425 for a round trip.

Nemani says, "We promise comfort, convenience, safety and affordability to everyone. Our USP is that there is no money exchange with the driver. All the money is paid only when a person buys the coupons." He further mentions that to ensure safety all the 50 cars are monitored through a GPRS service.

The four month old service has carried more than 50,000 passengers until now and has at least 400 pick-up points throughout the city, claims Nemani. "These pick up points are usually known hotels or apartment complexes in all areas. For example there are 15 pick-up points only in Koramangala. We have planned them in a way that they are close to all localities," adds Nemani as he looks at the online data base. The pick-up points are listed on the bookings screen.

The shared-ride Toyota Innova Cars of Airlift carry five passengers at a time. They have a separate lugguage space above and in the back. Pic: Supriya Khandekar.

To go from the airport you need to pre book for the return trip (either book online else pick a coupon from any Nilgiris store) and a cab will be waiting for you when you land at the airport.
Coming from a technical background, Nemani feels that technology is relevant only if it can be of use to everyone. His intent was to use his background to make the service more professional, safe and reliable.

Nemani feels that with growing traffic congestion and pollution in the city it is important that a system that reduces the number of vehicles on the roads be put into action. "The Airlift service, by offering a shared ride cuts down pollution levels," he says with a touch of pride.

Nemani however, acknowledges rising competition among the service providers, and envisages more people opting for Airlift in the long run. "It is difficult to capture the present market totally because people need to get used to and trust this service. It will take some time” he says. Though the regular personal taxis are the first option for most of the people even now, “… my service will overpower them in the coming years," he affirms.

To the airport in comfort

While Airlift is trying hard to woo air travellers, the city taxis feel they will always rule the roads because of the convenience they offer. One of the more popular among them is Meru Cabs that run services inside the city as well. The regular payment method is by cash, and claim that they are exploring options of credit and debit card payments too.

Airlift: 40528888,
Meru Cabs: 44224422
BMTC: 22952522 / 2295242

Priyanka Vieira, Corporate Relations Officer says that though the company by itself was not designed on a share-taxi model, several commuters opted to share cabs – a version of car pooling to get to work. “The charges for Meru in Bangalore are Rs.15 for the first km and then Rs.13 for every subsequent km", says Priyanka.

A one-way trip to the airport from the south side of the city might approximately cost Rs.700. A spokesperson for Meru Cabs says that the profile of taxi users is such that they do not mind spending the extra bit for convenience. "Everyone wants to get a cab from the door step; no one wants to go to a pick up point, wait for a cab and then share a ride," the spokesperson adds.

It is well known that taxi cab companies get complaints from commuters about misbehaviour of the drivers, rash driving or asking for an extra fare, giving wrong amounts by keeping the meter off, and so on. This is situation is prevalent in Bangalore across taxi firms. For their part, Meru Cabs is working to solve such issues and might think of the coupon system in the future, says the spokesperson.

To the airport on a budget

While several private competitors are fighting to get the maximum number of travellers, the state sector BMTC claims that its BIAL Volvo bus service gets the most. With the cheapest rates and convenient pick up point these air conditioned luxury buses, called Vayu Vajras, are a success according to BMTC.

The buses run on BMTC’s routes and offer to take passengers at a minimum fare of Rs.80 and maximum of Rs.200, depending on the distance from the airport. They are currently running from Hebbal, MCTC on Mysore Road, Koramangala, HAL Airport, JP Nagar 6th phase, Electronic City and Whitefield among others.

Dastagir Sheriff, Chief Traffic Manager (operations), BMTC says that because not everyone can afford a private taxi ride, people opt for the buses. "If a convenient, equally luxurious option is available why will people go for other options?” he asks. “If a person is travelling alone he will never want to spend Rs.600 or 700 just to reach the airport, he will always like to get a cheaper option." Sheriff feels that the airport bus service attracts more crowd than the private cabs.

"We were facing a little trouble as Volvo buses are very expensive and we could not introduce more buses on newer routes. But now we will have Marcopolo buses instead which are equally competent and cost less", adds Sheriff. The minimum fare on this service will be Rs.5 and the maximum Rs.25. Depending on the response of the commuters, the BMTC would go in for more such buses, he said.

Airport routes on Marcopolo buses have not been introduced, but compared to Vayu Vajra, Marcopolo would be cheaper by 40 per cent per stage. Sheriff confesses that BMTC faces competition from private cabs because of their privacy and door-to-door service. "We are getting hit by the taxi competition mainly because of the high level of convenience people get and also because we still have to work on proper time schedules for our buses," he admits.

The city for now seems to have a range of options for everyone to reach the international airport on time. Happy flying!


  1. SV Nagappa says:

    Recently in Bangalore I was pleasently surprised the way airport was, especially the taxi service where the taxi i got was absolutely clean, the driver named jayanna was absolutely fantastic with politeness, courtesy and helpfulness. If this is the service that is provided it would make all travellers at ease when travelling alone from the airport. I also had a look at the busses whihc where clean and well organized. Banglaore needs services like these to enable it to gain a reputation as a safe destination to travel to.

  2. Amar says:

    Airlift has stopped their services.

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