August 26, 2008

Fliers Queue Up to Pay User Tax at Bangalore, Hyderabad Airports

NEW DELHI: If you feel you can breeze your way to catch a flight at the new airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore, think again.

Domestic airlines have, for now, decided not to include user development fee (UDF) that outbound passengers have to pay at new airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore in their ticket costs. As a result, fliers will have to shell out this fee, that goes to airport developers as one of the measures of recovering investment made, by lining up at the airport when they go to catch their flights.

"Short-haul traffic out of Hyderabad and Bangalore has already suffered. We are not in favour of levying a UDF as this would further dent traffic. if developers want this fee, they'll have to collect it themselves for the time being," Jet Airways CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schaeur said. He added this issue is being raised at the level of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), an umbrella organization of all domestic carriers, which would take a final call.

The aviation ministry has allowed the GMR-led Hyderabad airport consortia to charge Rs 375 from each outbound domestic flier. The Siemens-led Bangalore airport JV is soon going to be allowed to levy a UDF. A senior aviation ministry official said this charge should be as a part of the overall ticket cost. "If people have to stand in queues to pay this levy, then the experience of using the first (two) world-class airports in India can lose some of its charm. After all, these airports were supposed to end the pain of lining up endlessly," he said.

While airlines don't disagree with this logic, they point out air travel is currently registering negative growth in India. "Hyderabad and Bangalore airports are quite far from city centres. A further levy of UDF will act as yet another deterrent to flying from these places," said an airline CEO.

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