Gaya Airport: gateway to the land of divinity

, Cover Story

The only international airport in the state of Bihar, Gaya Airport is extending its wings to meet the passenger growth

Enchanted by the hymns of monks and auspicious ringing of temple bells, Gaya is a major pilgrimage centre for Buddhists and Hindus all over the world. Also known as the land of enlightenment and salvation, Gaya attracts a large number of tourists to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mahabodhi Temple Complex, Bodhgaya & Vishnupad Temple. Tourists from various international and domestic destinations travel to Gaya to find eternal peace and tranquility. Airports Authority of India (AAI) operates the airport at Gaya, which is the only international airport in the state of Bihar, through the new state-of-the-art Terminal Building.

BRIEF HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT

Initially constructed by the Royal British Air-force in 1936, during World War-II, Gaya Airport was used as an Ambulance Airfield for treating casualties from Northeastern part of India in defence hospitals for very long. Ever since then, AAI has undertaken several projects for the betterment of services at Gaya Airport and is catering to the needs of the passengers by providing various types of facilities and commercial amenities. The first scheduled international flight of Sri Lankan airlines flagged off from the airport in the year 2002 through the commencement of weekly flight from Colombo to Gaya.

CONNECTIVITY

Gaya Airport connects directly to the major cities like Delhi, Varanasi, and Kolkata domestically. Internationally, the airport currently connects directly to five destinations, namely, Yangon in Myanmar, Paro in Bhutan, Bangkok in Thailand, Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi in Vietnam. Simultaneously, IndiGo has started its operations from Kolkata and Varanasi from August 2019. Air India is also operating seasonal Haj flight during summers i.e., from July to September to Mecca-Medina in Saudi Arabia, catering to the needs of thousands of pilgrims who are travelling from Bihar.

FACILITIES

AAI has incessantly been focusing on increasing connectivity from Gaya Airport and tapping the foreign tourist market from different parts of world. The work of re-carpeting of the runway was completed in the year 2017. The airport is equipped with all the navigational aids that includes Category – I Instrument Landing System (ILS) and Doppler Very High Frequency Omni Range (DVOR).

All the conventional lights at the airport have been replaced with LED lights thereby saving the energy. Out of the three aircraft parking stands, two are connected with Passenger Boarding Bridges, which were commissioned in the year 2015. Valuing the importance of safety, two new Crash Fire Tenders were commissioned in 2017. To help differently-abled people travel better, facilities like divyang-friendly ramp, tactile flooring, “May I help you” desk, pictorial signages, separate toilets and front row seating arrangements have also been made at the airport.

Air Traffic & Passenger Movement

The passenger traffic at the airport has thrived over the years. The year 2018-19 recorded a rising air traffic growth at the airport with an approximate figure of 2,02,450 passengers. The traffic grew by 9.02% and difference figure now stands at 23,053 passengers. Gaya Airport showcased more than 12.58% increase over the last year in aircraft movements. Growing at an exponential rate, the airport is expected to incorporate additional flights in the coming time.

AIRPORT ATTRACTIONS

The Golden Buddha Statue sitting at the visitors area is the main attraction and has lately developed into a selfie point for passengers. Other eye-catching installations at the airport is the Buddha statue made of white marble and Vijayanta Tank that are placed just outside the terminal building. Gaya Airport stood second in Category-3 in the recently held Independence day-best decorated airport competition.

NEW INITIATIVES GALORE

AAI has initiated several other successful projects for the development of the airport. Some of its worth-mentioning achievements include basic strip grading, wall-to-wall levelling, maintenance and cleanliness of the operational area through mechanical means.

To make checking-in at the airport a worthwhile experience, six counters have been made Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) enabled and two Common Use Self-Service (CUSS) kiosks have also been provided. Provision of an additional 100 passenger three-seater chairs and 200 passenger baggage trolleys have been made available at the terminal building for the convenience of the passengers. A low cost tea/coffee counter has also been operationalised in the Security Hold Area (SHA) in addition to the existing snacks bar counter. The facility of e-tourist visa on arrival and money exchange counter are now being provided to the commuters in the arrival area.

LOCAL ARTWORKS

The artwork at Gaya Airport brings out the same essence as the state. Being the enlightenment place of Lord Buddha, the check-in area displays pictures of different phases of his life and places relevant to him. Through an array of pictures displayed at the airport, one comes across Buddha’s birth place – Lumbini near (Kathmandu, Nepal), the Enlightenment place (Bodhgaya, Bihar), place of first sermon at Saranath (near Varanasi) and his salvation place at Kushinagar where a Greenfield Airport is also supposed to be built. The artwork highlight the traditions of the State and aims to promote local and regional tourism.

Providing convenience

AAI, in association with Lifeline Multispecialty Hospital, has setup a Medical Inspection Room in visitor’s area. Child care facilities and Prayer room cum Monk’s lounge has also been setup to provide enhanced comfort and serene atmosphere to the travellers. The airport under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has provisioned one Advanced Life Support System Ambulance (ALSA) and four Basic Road ambulances, which have been procured and will be handed over to the District Administration soon. Moreover, Gaya Airport was ranked among the top 5 Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) rated airports in the year 2018 and third place in the recent survey conducted from January-July 2019.

ONGOING PROJECTS

The construction of the state-of-art Control Tower is in progress at the airport. The work of replacement of DVOR and new DVOR building is also in progress. The 220kV roof mounted solar panel on terminal and ancillary buildings is going to be completed soon.

FUTURE ENDEAVOURS

The work of extension of existing apron with the addition of two aircraft parking stands and a taxiway is going to start soon at the airport. Some of the future targets include extension of terminal building, cargo complex, renovation of reserved lounges and passenger toilets in terminal building and cityside landscaping while meeting the growing demand. Trying to reach new laurels as compared to the previous financial year, Gaya Airport aims to set several other benchmarks in the coming years.

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