Mumbai: The top brass of Indian firms can no longer drive right into Mumbai’s international airport to board their private jets.

Pay and ride: Private jet planes parked at Mumbai airport. Vijayanand Gupta/HT

If a chief executive wants an assistant to accompany him into the airport, he would have to shell out an additional Rs1,250 per hour. For two hours at the VIP lounge, they would need to spend Rs5,000, plus Rs2,500 for each additional hour.

From 8 March, the GVK group-controlled Mumbai International Airport Ltd (Mial), which runs Mumbai airport, has been levying these charges. Çelebi NAS Airport Services India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian arm of Istanbul-based Çelebi Holding Inc., is in charge of groundhandling services.

Mint has reviewed the rate card sent out by Çelebi to companies that own and run private jets at the airport. A Çelebi executive confirmed the development, but declined to be named.

Mial says the move will help beef up security. “In the general aviation area, we are addressing some non-compliances and introducing processes to ensure standardization and enhance airside safety in line with Directorate General of Civil Aviation guidelines," a spokesperson said.

The GVK group also defends the action. “Until now, the groundhandling activities for these private jet operators were carried out by unauthorized companies and there were irregularities found on the operations," a GVK official said on condition of anonymity. “There were no checks and balances when it comes to access to aircraft. We need to bring in some standard practices for safety."

Private jet users are not buying this logic. “We have already got security clearances for our cars, drivers, assistants for facilitating smooth journey for top-rung executives," said a senior executive at a Mumbai-based conglomerate that frequently uses business jets. “The new norms are just to make money."

“Why would my chairman get down at airport gate and get into another car when he has a superior car, which is cleared by security? It is also intrusion of privacy as my CEO may not be comfortable to talk on his mobile while his car is being driven by a stranger," the executive added. He, too, declined to be named.

Reliance Industries Ltd, Tata group, Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, the Essar Group, Religare Enterprises Ltd, Bajaj Auto Ltd, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Raymond Ltd and Punj Lloyd Ltd are some firms operating jets out of Mumbai airport.

Irked with the new security rules and high charges, some of these companies are planning to take up the issue with Mial.

But the GVK executive quoted above said the charges were not “exorbitant" considering the target clients. “These are high-flying executives and spend a couple of lakhs for two hours of flying in private jets."

On 15 March, Mint reported business aviation is rebounding as economic recovery sustains and firms that provide such facilities are returning to profitability.

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