AAI should play lead role in airport modernisation: Parl body

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New Delhi, Aug 20 (UNI) Stating that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) should play a lead role in airport modernisation plans, a Parliamentary Standing Committee has recommended that the commercial operation of the terminal buildings should be entrusted solely to the AAI and not given out for public-private participation.

It has also recommended use of older airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore for small haul flights.

''Commercial operation of terminal building being a profit making activity would generate revenue for the AAI to spend on airside operations,'' Mr Sitaram Yechury, who headed the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, told reporters here, after presenting its 141st report on modernisation of airports to the Rajya Sabha Chairman today.

He said it had been decided in a meeting of the Committee on Infrastructure headed by the Prime Minister in 2008 that the terminal building and airside operations would be handled by the AAI while the cityside developments would be given to public-private participation (PPP). ''However, there has been a deviation and the Planning Commission has given go ahead for PPP for terminal building operations. The PMO needs to issue a clarification and intervene to ensure that AAI has the sole right,'' he said.

He said the Committee did not agree with the logic that modernisation of airports can be better managed though privatisation and felt that the AAI should have a leading role in the modernisation of airports.

He said the existing problems at the Delhi and Mumbai airports were mainly due to lack of coordination between the government agencies and private developers. While stressing that modernisation projects have to involve many agencies, he said the time taken can be cut if there was more coordination.

He said the Committee learnt that the newly opened Bangalore and Hyderabad greenfield airports have reported a fall in short-haul passenger traffic due to long distance travel to airports. It therefore called upon the Civil Aviation Ministry to keep the existing airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore functional, and said these could be used for operating short haul flights.

It also felt that modernisation of Chennai, Kolkata and non-metro airports should be as per schedule as any further delay would hamper development of civil aviation secor, he said.

The passengers should not be charged any user development fee, he said.

Mr Yechury regretted that amenties for passengers have been given a low priority in Delhi and Mumbai airports and the lounge space has got curtailed due to space given to commercial outlets.

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