The stoic silence of some people’s representatives and the indifference of some others on introduction of round-the-clock operations at Visakhapatnam Airport seem to be snowballing into a major controversy. Opposition parties are gearing up for a major showdown.
Those watching the developments wonder whether the inordinate delay in giving the nod for 24/7 operations was a ‘deliberate attempt’ to scuttle the growth prospects of the airport to favour private airport developers in the long run.
The non-allocation of a single post during the last three years, though the passenger traffic has registered a quantum jump of around 3 lakhs during the same period at Visakhapatnam Airport, non-extension of concessions like that being done in Hyderabad, not permitting the Airports Authority of India to hike the User Development Fee (UDF) are all being seen by the Information Technology Association leaders and air travellers as a move to hit the profitability of the airport.
The airport recorded remarkable growth in passenger traffic crossing the 9.5 lakh-mark this year and is making an annual operating profit of Rs.9 crore.
The airport is earning Rs.27 crore while its expenses amount to Rs.18 crore a year. The UDF of Rs.150, being charged at the Visakhapatnam Airport for domestic passengers, is among the lowest in the country and Rs. 484 being charged at Hyderabad Airport is said to be the highest. The UDF collected from international passengers in Hyderabad is Rs.1,800 and the fee for international passengers is ‘nil’ at Visakhapatnam Airport.
The air travellers’ associations have sought a hike in the UDF so that the money could be utilised for development of the airport. Similarly, they also sought concessions to new international airline operators for the first six months on the lines of that being done in Hyderabad but no decision has been taken on the issue.
The proposal to convert the old airport building into a cargo terminal is said to be pending in Delhi for the last one year. There is no reason why the government should delay the proposals as they do not require any new investment, feel those who have been watching the developments.
Lack of 24/7 operations at the airport is hitting the IT industry, tourism and other industries and thereby hindering the development of Visakhapatnam city and region, according to IT Association leaders P. Vishnu Kumar Raju and O. Naresh Kumar.
Keywords: Visakhapatnam Airport