The airports tariff regulator has asked airports not to levy any unapproved charges after Adani group-owned Ahmedabad airport raised user charges for charter flights during the ongoing Cricket World Cup.
The airport increased ground handling charges by more than 10 times in mid-September, sparking a backlash from major airlines such as IndiGo, Vistara and SpiceJet. These airlines have complained to the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) that the sudden increases were illegal and making charter operations unviable, people aware of the details told ET.
The AERA, which fixes airport tariffs for aperiod of five years, issued a notice on Friday evening to all airports saying levying charges and tariffs that have not been approved by the authority is illegal. “A few airport operators are levying charges without taking approval, resorting to unethical practices. All airport operators are directed to refrain from levying charges which have not been approved by the authority,” AERA said in the notice seen by ET.
AERA has also summoned the top management of the Ahmedabad airport on Monday to discuss the issue. An ET review showed no other airport has revised these charges. According to the tariff list issued by the Ahmedabad airport in September, the airport has levied a minimum of `265,000 as general aviation charges for any charter flight carrying more than 15 passengers. Above that, it will charge Rs 17,667 per passenger. The airport has also levied extra charges on special flights operated during the Indian Premier League at Rs 6,000 per passenger.
These are over and above the landing and parking charges. Airlines have also been told that any flight that has not been filed with the airport operator for a particular season will be charged as a charter.
The people cited above said IndiGo, SpiceJet and Vistara had bid for a Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) tender for ferrying cricket teams during the tournament based on previous charges. Such a sudden increase in airport charges, they said, will make those flights unviable as BCCI has refused to pay the extra charges. The airlines are also operating special charter flights carrying cricket fans from across the world.
In October, more than 170 charter flights or four times the usual traffic, will ferry cricket teams and some of India’s wealthiest people to and from Ahmedabad. The city will play host to multiple high voltage cricket matches including the opener, India-Pakistan match, England vs Australia clash and the final.
A spokesperson for Adani Airports didn’t respond to queries sent on Saturday despite repeated reminders. However, a senior company official said the extra fees that have been levied are not aeronautical charges and hence permission from AERA was not required, adding that they were reviewing the charges. “Only aeronautical charges like landing, parking charges need permission from the authority. These charges are only for extra services for charter flights and hence should be treated as non-aeronautical,” he said. He added that due to the increased movement of charter flights, the airport has deployed extra manpower, which has increased expenses.