All your plans of tightening your purse strings just flew out of the window. Close on the heels of the hikes in rail fares, the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) — the regulator that looks into an airport’s financial issues — on Wednesday approved collection of user development fee (UDF) from passengers departing from the Mumbai airport.
Domestic travellers will have to shell out Rs346 as UDF, while international passengers will find their wallets lighter by Rs692. The charges will be in effect from February to March. Thereafter, till March next year, UDF charges will be scaled down to Rs274 and Rs548 for domestic and international travels, respectively.
According to AERA’s website, though the specific purposes for levying it are not defined, UDF is usually imposed on passengers to ensure that airport operators are fairly compensated for investments on services they provide.
Passengers’ associations have taken umbrage to the move. “The hike is unjustified. On the one hand, the aviation ministry talks about increasing passenger traffic, and on other, it allows levying of charges which increase cost of air travel, thereby deterring passengers,” complains Sudhakar Reddy, president of Air Passengers’ Association.
He assures that he will take up the demand for a UDF rollback with the authorities concerned.
In all, the AERA has approved a 155% hike in tariff, which include charges for landing, parking, housing, aerobridges and fuel handling.
Experts say airlines seeking to recover these increased investments will pass on the burden of the charges to passengers, which will make fares steeper.
According to an estimate by leading aviation consultancy firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), the passenger traffic at the Mumbai airport is likely to hit the optimum of 40 million passengers annually once the new integrated terminal becomes operational from the next year. The airport is run by Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), a consortium led by infrastructure major GVK Power. The cost of construction has increased from Rs9,802 crore to Rs12,380 crore.
MIAL sources blame the cost escalation on the government’s delays in taking calls on key decisions.
“It looks like the government just thinks about the airport operator’s benefits and never considers passengers’ concerns. The levying of UDF is an example,” complainsUmesh Nair, a frequent flier from Andheri.