The move by the Airport Authority of India to impose an “exorbitant” user development fee (UDF) on passengers flying out of Madurai airport has been strongly opposed by the industry here. They say it was inappropriate to “penalise” passengers with the UDF when the airport in the tier II city was yet to be put to optimum usage.
Report says the AAI was planning to levy UDF of Rs. 400 for each domestic passenger and Rs. 750 for each international passenger. “Ideally, there should not be any UDF at all in Madurai airport for the initial period of three years with an aim to motivate people of the region to fly. The UDF of Rs. 400 will only discourage passengers from using the airport,” senior president of Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industries, S. Rethinavelu, said.
Besides, the levy of Rs. 400 cannot be justified in a tier II city airport, which has no international flight operation. “We strongly oppose any such move,” he said.
A leading travel agent, N. Sriram, said that the UDF for domestic and international passengers taking off from metros like New Delhi and Bangalore was much lesser. It was Rs. 221 and Rs. 260 respectively.
“There is no logic to fix the UDF at Rs. 400 in Madurai,” he said.
AAI has not been collecting any UDF hitherto. Any levy of UDF could be justified only when the airport has got international operation, whereas only domestic flights were flying in and out of Madurai, Mr. Sriram said. Besides, the airport did not have important services like restaurant and foreign exchange counter.
Stating that most of the passengers of the region were cost conscious, he added that the very move by AAI to make Madurai airport a profitable one would back-fire. He said an additional fare of Rs. 400 for a travel to Chennai would make air-journey an expensive one and divert many passengers to rail and road traffic.
Eight flights were being operated out of Madurai daily (except on Tuesdays and Saturdays when only seven flights are operated). The lowest fare was a little over Rs. 2,300 to Chennai and Hyderabad.
“This means Rs. 400 UDF would be a steep increase in air-fare,” he said.
Mr. Sriram wanted the AAI to have separate UDF rates for airports in metros and tier II cities. “The UDF of Rs. 150 plus taxes levied at Tiruchi airport was acceptable in Madurai also,” he said.