Passengers, both domestic and international, flying out of the Tiruchi Airport would have to pay a user development fee from June 15.

The user development fee for international passengers flying out of the airport has been fixed at Rs.360 per head and for domestic passengers it will be Rs.150 per head. The fee would be levied only on outgoing passengers.

The imposition of the fee comes in the wake of the extensive modernisation work, including the expansion of the runway and the commissioning of the state-of-the-art terminal building, executed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at the airport.

The fee, which includes service tax and collection charges, will be in force for 10 years. Special counters would be set up at the airport to collect the fee from passengers who have booked tickets in advance. The counters would function until the airlines incorporate the fee in their ticket prices, said S.Dharmaraj, Airport Controller.

Infants, diplomatic passport holders, airline crew on duty, persons travelling on official duty on aircraft operated by the Indian armed forces, transit/transfer passengers (with less than six hours of stay at the airport) and passengers departing from the airport due to involuntary re-routing owing to technical problems or weather conditions are exempt.

The introduction of the fee has not gone down well with the travel industry here. Industry representatives say that Tiruchi cannot be put on par with metro airports.

“This is an emerging market. Here, labour traffic accounts for a major portion of passengers flying out to destinations abroad and these travellers would not like the prospect of paying such substantial amount,” says a representative of a leading carrier. He points out that most of the international passengers travelling from Tiruchi were from rural areas in the central and southern districts who were employed in the Gulf as semi-skilled and unskilled labourers.

V.Vasudevan, president, Tiruchi Travel Federation, feels that the fee should be reduced especially in view of the fact that labour traffic accounted for a major portion of international passengers from the city. Though the AAI has built a modern and bigger terminal, the airport still lacked in terms of passenger amenities. There was no restaurant and even the toilets inside the airport have to be bigger and better, he says. There is no pre-paid taxi service either.

Air operators too concur with his view and contend that the new terminal, though a modern one, would still not offer amenities and facilities on international standards to warrant such a high user development fee.

They point out that a passenger service fee of Rs.229 per head was already charged in the air tickets and this amount is paid to the AAI.