Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is in danger of losing its prime position as the preferred ground station for most business jets and chartered aircraft due to punitive parking rates. After landing in Mumbai, many business jets are now being flown to Ahmedabad or other nearby airports for parking since the fees in such government-owned airports are nominal compared to the Rs75,000 a day charged by GVK.
But a rationalisation of rates may happen soon. After almost a year of several hearings over the high penalty charged by Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (Mial), the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal (AERAAT) is expected to come out with a decision in 4-8 weeks.
In June 2012, the GVK-group-promoted Mial increased the penalty charges for private jets at the international airport to Rs75,000 per day, making it the highest such parking charge.
“There have been several hearings over the last one year. We are hoping for the judgment to come out in 4-8 weeks,” said Rohit Kapur, president of Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA). The association has 60 members, which include private jets owners, charter operators and service providers.
Mial spokesperson said it will go with whatever judgment is made by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA). According to Mial, the penalty was charged to private players only on account of over-staying, which happens with most business jets since CEOs and chairmen change their travel plans frequently.
“Its a land-constrained airport and the idea behind charging penalties was to deter private jet operators from overstaying and not adhering to schedules. There is no scope expansion as it a land-locked airport,” said the spokesperson.
But experts feel the airport still has enough space for private players to park their aircraft. “Just to say that we don’t have space is not an answer. We want a technical committee to point this out in a study. We are confident that more space can be created,” said Kapur.
At least 6-7 charter companies in the last one year have moved out of the city, while corporates are looking at smaller airports that offer cheaper parking charges to park their planes like Ahmedabad or Nagpur or even Hyderabad. “Mumbai is a commercial hub and it is critical to park aircraft here. But we have to look at options like Ahmedabad, where they (airports) have their own limitations. Also, one pays additional expenses on fuel,” said a pilot who flies a corporate jet.
“Due to higher operating expenses, the charter business is down by almost 90%. People are moving to scheduled airlines instead of going for charter services. Most of the players have moved out of Mumbai. We park our aircraft in Hyderabad now,” said an owner of a private jet company.
Apart from the highest penalty charges, experts pointed out that overall cost of parking an aircraft at Mumbai airport, which includes higher ground handling expenses, is the highest in the country.
In New York, London, Singapore or Bangkok, a dedicated general aviation airport caters to private jet operators and corporate jets.
BAOA is hoping for some revival to come from AERAAT, which is soon expected to come up with the judgment. “We understand the issue of congestion but they (Mial) have not created any infrastructure for civil aviation, while they continue to create capacity for commercial operations,” said Kapur.