Members of employees union block bidders visit to terminals

The CISF staff at Chennai airport and hundreds of members of the Airports Authority Employees’ Union (AAEU) were locked in a protracted battle on Tuesday, when the latter ceaselessly tried to prevent prospective bidders for the airport from inspecting the facility.

Nearly 10 representatives from different companies, including GMR, GVK, Frankfurt airport operator Fraport, Turkish firm Celebi, Essar Infrastructure and Sahara, arrived at the airport early on Tuesday. But hundreds of AAEU members gathered outside the administrative building of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and stopped them from visiting the airport terminals.

“We did not quite expect this. If we are unable to inspect the airport today we will certainly come back another day,” said a representative of Essar Infrastructure.

Some of the bidders said they had witnessed similar protests in other airports including Mumbai and Delhi, and were therefore not too surprised by this reception.

“We have to observe the traffic pattern here and the facilities available. Only after examining such issues can we decide on the deal price,” said a bidder who did not want to be named.

Some bidders missed most of the briefing session held at a hotel nearby as the protestors did not let them go. The Airports Authority of India currently runs 125 airports in the country, and four metro airports including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad are managed by private operators.

“What is the need to privatise the profitable Chennai airport? After investing over Rs. 2,000 crore to modernise the airport, why should a private party run the airport? After Delhi and Mumbai airports were privatised, passengers are being charged an exorbitant User Development Fee,” said L. George, regional secretary of the AAEU.

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