Tirupati airport set to go into private hands

A view of Tirupati Airport
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A view of Tirupati Airport

Highlights

With moderate revenues now, it may be combined with profit making Trichy airport to lure investors

Tirupati: Air passengers from Tirupati need to bear additional burden once the airport lands in private hands in the next few years as part of the Central government's move. The airport in the pilgrim city is one among the 13 airports in the country listed for privatisation as part of asset monetisation pipeline of the government of India.

Accordingly, Tirupati airport may be combined with Trichy airport to make one package as the government contemplates to club one profit making airport with one having moderate revenue to lure investors so that it will not be a burden for them. Needless to say that international flight operations are being carried out from Trichy airport apart from about 50 domestic flights whereas Tirupati gets about 12-15 domestic services only.

In case, the package having Trichy and Tirupati is not possible for any reason, pilgrim city may get linked with Bhubaneswar airport. In the same lines, Gaya airport in Bihar is planned to combine with Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

The move was aimed at realising Rs 6 trillion to fund its infrastructure projects over four years till 2024-25. The government was aiming for private investment of Rs 3,660 crore in airports by 2024. It was learnt that several airports were having capital depreciation though getting only operating profits to some extent. Tirupati airport is also having meagre operating profits.

Following the government's announcement, fears surrounded several sections that it will make the flight journey costlier and the middle class may not bear the brunt. Naturally, privatisation makes passenger services costly as they pass on every cost to the passengers without bearing any burden.

It is evident from the examples of other airports being maintained by private players that they will collect 'User development fee' (UDF) which includes in the total ticket fare itself which the passengers often may not know unless they go through the breakup of the fare. UDF will be shown under fees and statutory payments in the break-up.

Of course, investors may expand various services to make everything more comfortable. Rich people can afford these luxuries and can pay extra amounts whereas this extra burden may become detrimental to the interests of middle-class and make flight journeys only a dream for this section, said a travel operator.

He said more people from middle income groups are now opting for flight journeys and may think twice if their purse cannot afford it. Even entry tickets will also go up for sure.

Congress leader P Naveen Kumar Reddy flayed the decision and said that the BJP government has not created any assets but wants to sell those developed during the Congress regime.

The government was unable to even maintain the airports and wanted to wash its hands by inviting private operators. He said the present government wants to loot the air passengers through private players by giving licence to them.

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