Airports run by govt may offer water at MRP, cheap snacks
Packaged drinking water will soon be available at maximum retail price (MRP), and tea and snacks at low rates at more than 90 government-run airports in the country following an order from Airports Authority of India (AAI) triggered by a spate of passenger complaints, two officials familiar with the development said.
In a circular sent to airports directors in August, AAI has asked for a separate counter where packaged water and snacks are sold at MRP, and to bring in a master concessionaire to reduce the rate of cooked food items. Tenders have to be floated by next financial year.
This rule will, however, not apply to some of India’s biggest airports — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi.
These airports are operated by private companies.
“We have asked airport directors to ask the company that is managing food courts at airports to have a counter where water bottles and sandwiches are sold at MRP. We have also told them to sell tea and coffee at ₹10. They will also ensure that some cheap snacks, such as samosa, are sold at lesser rates. The concessionaire can have other items at different rates, but there has to be some basic items at reasonable prices,” said a senior AAI official who asked not to be named.
Some of the busiest airports operated by AAI in terms of traffic are Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Patna and Guwahati.
In their complaints, passengers raised issues such as the price of tea at Imphal airport ( ₹50), the Guwahati operating offering just one restaurant. In Kolkata and Lucknow also, passengers have complained of lack of options.
“At some of the busy airports, we are going for a master concessionaire and will have a food court on the lines of private-run airports. Most of our airports have limited number of restaurants and lounges and the passengers have limited options. Now, we will have fast-food joints and a variety of restaurants, which will also bring in competition and prices will vary depending on the items,” said a second AAI official.
At least two states, Maharashtra and Telangana, have ordered owners of theatres to stop the practice of inflating selling prices on popcorn, mineral water and cola. Movie goers have complained of markups as high as 200% of prices at which such products are available outside.
While a few airports -- Chennai, Shimla and Pune -- set up cheaper snack counters on their own, the AAI a circular will make it mandatory at all airports.
“It is good that they are thinking of travellers but cost shouldn’t compromise in quality,” said Mark D Martin, founder and CEO, Martin Consulting.