Mumbai: Domestic airlines have sought more time from the GMR Group-controlled Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad to pay a common infrastructure charge (CIC) levied by the airport on them for using facilities such as aerobridges, common reservation systems and computerized visual guiding systems that help pilots park planes.
In a letter dated 7 January, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (Ghial), which runs the new Hyderabad airport, had asked domestic carriers to clear their dues since 23 March, the date when the airport was commissioned, warning that it would stop certain infrastructure services to the airlines form 14 January if they failed to pay up.
Unpaid yet: Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. Services here have not been affected yet while airlines have asked for time to pay a common infrastructure charge levied on them by the airport.
The airport is asking Indian carriers to pay Rs70 per outbound passenger who will use the aerobridge and Rs48 for every passenger using boarding ladders. An aerobridge, also known as an airbridge or jetway, is an automated walkway that links the boarding gate at the terminal with the aircraft’s door.
According to Ghial, domestic airlines owe Rs14 crore to the airport. The airport handles 18,000 passengers (outbound and inbound) a day.
However, no services have been affected yet as airlines have called for talks with the airport to resolve the issue.
On 13 January, the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), a lobby group for domestic carriers, wrote a letter to P.S. Nair, chief executive officer of Ghial, asking the airport to give carriers time to prepare for provision of these services to passengers in case Ghial withdraws them. The letter has been reviewed by Mint.
“We are requesting the authorities of Hyderabad airport to sit and discuss the issue of CICs since airline executives feel these charges are imposed without consultation. The other alternative is to wait till setting up of proposed Aera (Airport Economic Regulatory Authority) that will look into these issues,” said Anil Baijal, secretary general, FIA.
A senior Ghial official, who did not want to be identified, said the airport does not plan to disrupt flight services by denying services to the airlines for non-payment of CICs, “but what stops airlines paying us when they were paying the same at old Hyderabad airport and other airports for services used by them?”
Ghial is a public-private venture between GMR Group and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) on one side, and the government of Andhra Pradesh and Airports Authority of India (AAI) on the other. GMR Group holds 63% in the consortium, MAHB, 11%, while the Andhra Pradesh government and AAI hold 13% each.
This is not the first time that carriers and the airport have locked horns; earlier, the airlines had opposed the imposition of user development fee and passenger service fee by the privately run airport.
“Member airlines do not have clarity on the quantum of additional proposed charges, nor is it transparent as to which charge is applicable for which cost component,” the FIA letter said.
Baijal said such payment issues have not come up in government-run airports.
“Airline representatives have requested for details of the items included in the CIC. This will help us to understand the way it was treated by AAI earlier in old airports,” he added. A Mumbai-based aviation analyst, who did not want to be identified, said similar issues would emerge in other private airports.
“Both airlines and airports are facing severe cash crunch. Unfortunately, any increase in airfare is going to have a negative impact on passenger traffic through that particular airport. Already, the growth in domestic passengers has slipped,” he said.
A spokesperson for Mumbai International Airport Ltd said the airport does not levy a CIC. A spokeswoman for Bangalore International Airport Ltd said the airport charges only for the facilities which the airlines use.
“It is disappointing that airlines are paying these charges everywhere and they do not want to pay here. However, we will discuss with FIA to decide the future course of action,” the Ghial executive quoted earlier said.
Recently, private airport developers including Ghial have secured approval from the ministry of civil aviation to impose a user development fee of Rs375 on passengers, while the GVK Group has been allowed to increase charges on certain services to airlines at the Mumbai airport.