The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the levy of several miscellaneous charges on fliers and took a suo motu cognisance of imposition of user development fee (UDF) and conveyance charges by airlines, setting the ground for a massive hike in airfares for those flying in and out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).
Issuing notices to the Centre and Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) — which operates the IGI Airport, the apex court sought a categorical explanation as to why these charges were burdened on the travellers instead of airline companies.
A Bench of Justices DK Jain and Madan B Lokur asked the DIAL and Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) to file their affidavits, explaining how and for what purpose such charges were being imposed on the travellers. The court also wanted to know which authority was levying such charges from fliers and under what provisions.
“Prima facie, we are satisfied that you cannot levy such charges. How can airlines collect it? you are be-fooling the public. When season starts, you jack up your rates. You (DIAL) have goody-goody relations with airlines and the public is made to pay for it,” remarked the Bench when the DIAL counsel sought to argue that the airlines and their agents were levying such charges.
The counsel for the DIAL was on the last date of hearing asked by the court to (DIAL) to get instructions as to whether they were levying and collecting the UDF. During the arguments, the court noted that not only the UDF appeared to be slapped on the fliers without any rationale, other levies like conveyance charges, transaction fee etc also seemed questionable.
At present, 12 airports including Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bangalore charge user development fee (UDF). The fee ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 430 for domestic passenger. The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority had allowed DIAL to charge a User Development Fee (UDF) from both departing and arriving passengers from May 15.
UDF is over and above the Airport Development Fee (ADF) charge of Rs 200 per domestic and Rs 1,300 per international passenger and ranges from Rs 195.80 to Rs 1,068 in the current year and from Rs 207.32 to Rs 1,130.85 in 2013-14. The airport charges had not been hiked since 2001. In June 2011, the Delhi High Court had suspended the hike and had asked the AERA to make recommendations in the matter.