Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fate of HAL airport to be decided next week

Fate of HAL airport to be decided next week
Anshul Dhamija & Saurabh Sinha | TNN

Bangalore/New Delhi: The stakeholders of the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) will meet next week to examine the possibility of renegotiating the concessions agreement. This follows the Karnataka High Court’s suggestion to the Centre to renegotiate with BIAL on keeping HAL airport open and charging a minimal user development fee (UDF).
Civil aviation secretary Ashok Chawla on Tuesday said: “Representatives of the Airports Authority of India, BIAL and Karnataka government will attend the meeting.” “The meeting will examine the possibility of renegotiating the agreement with BIAL on two issues — closure of the existing airport and charging UDF — in pursuance of the high court order,” Chawla said. On UDF, the ministry has asked BIAL to charge Rs 100 for domestic short-haul flights and Rs 200 for domestic long-haul ones after the initial three-month waiver ends.
But there’s an element of gloom too. The take-off of BIA has hit turbulence again. Speculation is rife that the opening of the airport will take place only after May 25 — when counting of votes to the state assembly will be held.
Speaking to TOI, civil aviation minister Praful Patel confirmed the government could decide a new date next week. “There is a high court order on this issue. I have called a meeting next Tuesday to assess the situation. A new date of opening may be decided then. As of now, there is no firm date...”
Senior government and airline officials told TOI the inauguration would be on or after May 27. “The civil aviation minister has asked BIAL to open the new airport only after the elections are over,” said a source. BIAL, however, is keen to have an informal opening on May 11 and a formal opening after the elections. A BIAL spokesperson, in an e-mail reply to TOI, said: “BIAL has not received any formal communication to confirm this statement (about a change in launch date).”
The delay is costing BIAL dear. The spokesperson said the airport is incurring a loss of Rs 40 crore a month. Some airlines said BIAL had told them the airport would commence operations on May 19.

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