BENGALURU: The curtailed domestic flight operations and stoppage of international operations barring special flights have heavily impacted the services of the special Vayu Vajra buses to and from the Kempegowda International Airport.
From running 800 plus trips on an average per day earlier to a maximum of 180 trips per day now, this hugely profitable service of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has taken a huge beating for the last four months.
With just 23 of these fully air-conditioned buses in operation instead of the 123-strong fleet that ran earlier, the BMTC earns an average of Rs 4 lakh per day in place of the Rs 30 lakh it earned in the past, said a top BMTC official.
No buses operate post midnight with the first service beginning at 12 noon and the last one run at 11.35 pm. “We are running only from five areas to and from the airport presently — Electronic City, Kempegowda Bus Station, Banashankari, HSR Layout and Mysuru Road. Patronage is quite poor due to non-resumption of regular flight operations. It is slowly picking up from August,” the official said.
As per stats released from April to June by the Airports Authority of India, the KIA airport has witnessed only 4,54,704 domestic and international flyers this year, a dip of 94.6% during the corresponding period last year.
Apart from taking precautions like mandatory masks for all commuters due to the pandemic, the buses have also adjusted the AC temperature from the previous 22 degrees to 24 degrees as a precaution against COVID-19 in the past few months, he added.
While BMTC operations are not profitable, the Vayu Vajra service was quite profitable due to the higher pricing of its tickets. This prompted the corporation to keep adding more routes and buses to its fleet gradually. The minimum fare on this Volvo bus is Rs 120 while the maximum priced ticket is Rs 350 depending on the boarding point.
This is part of the overall slump in operations and patronage for all BMTC buses in the city. “From operating 6100 buses per day, it is operating 3000 buses now. The monthly revenue has slumped from around Rs 150 crore to Rs 30 crore,” the official said.
Asked if drivers were worried about transporting flyers from the airport due to COVID-19 fears, the official said all precautionary measures and safety gear were made available for drivers to make them feel safe when carrying out their duty.
BMTC buses which began operations from the KSR railway station two months before the lockdown too have stopped completely since only special trains operate now.