Though a notice issued on November 7 by Airport Economic Regulatory Authority warned airports against charging business jet operators for optional services, private jet operators said the airport is not approving flights without payment of those. The AERA fixes tariffs for major airports.
“We are paying the charges under protest to continue operations, despite a government order. We are also yet to get a refund of the charges paid earlier. Right now, there is no clarity on how we are being charged for the charters to Ahmedabad, ” said Rajan Mehra, CEO of Club One Air, a private jet operator.
Airlines are operating extra flights, and charter operators are preparing to ferry the rich and famous to Ahmedabad in over 100 flights as the city hosts the final between India and Australia on Sunday.
Adani-owned airports including Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Lucknow, which have been hosts for the world cup matches, had introduced special ground-handling charges during the world cup that increased the ground handling charges 10 times.
This sparked a backlash from business jet operators who have sought government intervention saying such a sudden increase is illegal and will make business unviable.According to tariff orders issued by these airports and reviewed by ET, they have levied an extra charge of Rs 5,000 per arrival or departure for all charter flights operating between October 6 and November 30.
Additionally, a charge of Rs 50,000 has been levied for flights operating before and after two days of matches in those cities.
These are over and above the landing and parking charges.
“As you may be aware, our airports are gearing up to host the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. To provide a seamless and enjoyable experience for all the guests traveling to and from the general aviation terminal, we have implemented certain measures to alleviate congestion and ensure a safe and secure private experience.
This will enable us to provide a dedicated executive to escort guests upon both arrival and departure, thus minimizing any potential delays or inconveniences,” the order issued by Adani Airport Holdings Limited said.
However, the AERA notice said these are optional services and the airport operator cannot make them a prerequisite for availing landing and parking for charter flights.
“Making such aeronautical charges mandatory for availing aeronautical services is tantamount to altering the aeronautical charges, thus violating the provisions of AERA act, 2008,” the regulator had said.
Rajesh Bali, Managing Director of Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) said that the association has told its members not to pay the charges following the notice from AERA.
A spokesperson of Adani airports didn’t respond to queries on the topic.
A senior Adani group official said that the extra charges that were levied were not aeronautical charges and hence a permission from AERA was not required.
“These charges are only for extra services for charter flights and hence should be treated as non-aeronautical,” he said.
He added that due to increased movement of charter flights, the airport has deployed extra manpower which increased expense.
“Charter operations don’t follow a schedule. The airlines are operating charters beyond operating hours for which we had to deploy extra resources. Plus, passengers in charter flights need many other extra services. These have a cost. There has been no increase in charges for scheduled passenger flights,” the official said.
Ahmedabad airport said it has prepared a protocol for non-standard parking of aircraft in case demand for night parking exceeds the availability of stands for standard parking.
Due to heavy charter movement and increase in flights by airlines, the airport has asked operators drop their passengers and park in nearby airports like Vadodara, Udaipur.