Aviation Minister Praful Patel's call to the airlines to withdraw the newly-introduced Rs 150 congestion charge seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
The airlines have not retracted from their position. And on Saturday, even Air Deccan joined the group. Only the state-owned Indian has not chosen to levy the charge.
"It's a loud message: fix the infrastructure and stop talking. Why can't we train our air traffic controllers so that the airports can handle 50 flights in an hour, compared to just 30 today, or build additional parking slots," said Air Deccan COO Warwick Brady.
Airlines lose Rs 2,500 for every minute a Boeing or an Airbus aircraft hovers over an airport. If the plane is a turboprop ATR, the cost is about Rs 750 a minute.
Indian carriers together do around 1200 flights a day. Half of these flights circle over airports for, typically, 30 minutes, say experts. Daily industry loss on account of traffic congestion: about Rs 45 crore. Monthly bill, Rs 1,350 crore. But the question is: are the airlines justified in imposing such a surcharge? Are they taking undue advantage of their pricing freedom Why should someone flying, say Jaipur-Agra - which sees no congestion - pay a surcharge?
"The reason we have levied a surcharge is because it doesn't attract commission. By nature, it is non-finite and temporary in nature,'' said Kingfisher Airlines CEO Vijay Mallya at a press conference on Friday, defending the congestion surcharge.
"On a Mumbai-Delhi flight, Rs 150 doesn't cover the cost of congestion. The cost could be Rs 1,000. What we are doing is averaging out (the loss across sectors), as we can't possibly charge Rs 1,000 as congestion surcharge (on one ticket),'' added Mallya.