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‘Pvt airlines earning profit at cost of amenities’

A parliamentary panel has said private operators in airports are earning hefty profits at the expense of passenger amenities, reports Nagendar Sharma.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2008 23:56 IST
Nagendar Sharma

A parliamentary panel has said private operators in airports are earning hefty profits at the expense of passenger amenities because of lack of coordination between government agencies responsible for monitoring them.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, in its report to be presented to Parliament on Wednesday, is learnt to have recommended "strict regulations" to make the operators developing and modernising the airports accountable for passenger amenities.

The committee, headed by Sitaram Yechury, has blamed the “irreconcilable differences” between the Committee on Infrastructure headed by PM, and the Inter Ministerial Group headed by the Civil Aviation Secretary, for the present mess.

The parliamentary panel, in its assessment of the airports modernisation programme, has cited the examples of Delhi and Mumbai airports “where the passenger space has shrunk considerably to make way for commercial activities of the private developers”, sources said.

“Private parties have also been given the work of modernising the new Greenfield airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad built with government money. They stand to gain from the taxpayers' money. Why should this be allowed?” a committee member asked, adding “...there is no logic behind the government's decision in handing it over to private players virtually free of cost”.

The panel has demanded a proper valuation of the assets of airports being handed over for modernisation to make the public aware of the difference between “their spending and profits”.

Private firms are presently modernising and managing airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi.

A 2007 bill proposes regulation of all flight-related functions—from tariffs to slot allocations for airlines —by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority.

The committee wants the ground activities of private operators and operating airlines to be regulated.

“The proposed regulatory authority should be given powers to direct the operating airlines to ensure proper space for security and check-in counters,” sources said.