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Cabinet defers decision on new regulator for airports

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, June 29: The Union cabinet today deferred final decision on a bill to set up an independent regulator for the airline industry.

The cabinet headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh discusssed the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) bill but the defence ministry has sought some clarifications.

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel said the ministry will put forth the details within a week. ''We will discuss it in the next cabinet meeting,'' he told reporters after the meeting.

The AERA is expected to deal with issues of pricing and competition in airports, particularly in view of private companies entering the airport arena.

The new regulator will be independent of the existing Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that deals with technical aspects of aviation.

Officials say the AERA will also be entrusted with the task of prescribing pricing of user charges, operations of airlines as well as airports -- both government-owned and private. It will also prescribe the quantum of cess to be charged from air travellers, which will be used to develop state-owned airports across the country.

The proposal, if cleared by the cabinet next week, will be tabled in parliament during the coming monsoon session. The need for a regulator for the aviation sector has been necessitated in view of the rapid growth the airline industry is witnessing.

The AERA will be incharge of fixing the various airport tarrifs -- including navigation and landing charges for airlines. It will also fix the maximum limits for hiking these charges in future.

Indian airports have been charging the highest tariffs as landing and navigation fee in the region -- even higher than airports in Dubai and Singapore. Airlines have been seeking rationalisation of these charges, a plea which is expected to get a hearing with the AERA.

The regulatory body will seek to address the concerns of the airlines, airports and other operators or consumers on various aviation-related issues and ensure a level-playing field for all players.


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