Thiruvananthapuram airport hikes user fee; will impact passenger traffic, say experts

Fee hiked to Rs 770 and Rs 1,540 from Rs 506 and Rs 1,069 for domestic and int’l pax, respectively
Thiruvananthapuram international airport
Thiruvananthapuram international airportPhoto | Express

KOCHI: Passengers using Thiruvananthapuram Airport will have to dish out more as user development fee (UDF) with the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) approving the hike in rates.

The airport, operated by Adani Group, has increased UDF to Rs 770 and Rs 1,540 from Rs 506 and Rs 1,069 for domestic and international passengers, respectively.

The new rates are applicable till March 2025. For FY26, fee will be raised to Rs 840 on domestic and Rs 1,680 on international sectors, before a further jump to Rs 910 and Rs 1,820 in FY27. The fee is also being introduced for arriving traffic — Rs 330 for domestic and Rs 660 for international passengers.

Tour operators say that airfares from Thiruvananthapuram Airport are already higher due to various reasons, including distance when compared to Kochi. “The hike in UDF will reflect in the airfares from the capital city, and this would benefit Kochi airport, which has better connectivity and services,” said a Thiruvananthapuram-based tour operator.

Speaking about the implications, aviation expert Mohan Ranganathan said with lower connectivity compared to Kochi and higher UDF, passengers will opt for the airport that provides better service. “When you make more changes, you are bound to lose passenger traffic, just like it happened in the case of Chennai airport when Bengaluru was working on its expansion,” Mohan, a former commercial pilot, added.

Responding to the criticism, a Thiruvananthapuram Airport source said the Adani Group will invest Rs 1,200 crore for its expansion in the next five years. “Unlike in other airports where airlines have to pay a hefty fee for aero bridges, Thiruvananthapuram airport won’t charge any such fee. Also, AERA has approved concessions to airlines starting services on new routes,” he added.

“Expansion of terminal buildings alone is not enough. Connectivity, passenger facilities and other factors need to be also improved. When they [Adani Group] got their hands on six airports, they knew how much others had offered for the tenders, though the government would not admit it. They offered less than that. For them, it is not about passenger service, but how much profit they can make,” said Mohan.

Meanwhile, the source said that discussions are ongoing with multiple airlines to begin services to countries like New Zealand and Australia and Europe, besides domestic services to Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Among the four airports in the state, Kochi charges the lowest UDF — Rs 570 and Rs 270 for international and domestic sectors respectively. “Only six months ago, the UDF was increased at Kochi airport. Earlier it was Rs 400 for international and Rs 180 for domestic passengers,” a Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) spokesman said.

Kannur Airport, operated under a public-private partnership promoted by the state government, charges the highest UDF --Rs 1,680 for international and Rs 750 for domestic sectors. At Kozhikode Airport, the UDF is Rs 720 for international and Rs 430 for domestic travel.

Challenges

Adani Group took over Thiruvananthapuram Airport in October 2021. “In the last three years, daily air traffic has doubled to nearly 100. Passenger traffic jumped from 3.2 million in 2022-23 to 4.4 million in the last financial year,” the airport source said.

“Though the airport aims to increase passenger traffic to five million next year, one of the challenges it faces is land acquisition for terminal expansion. As of now, there is no land to expand the terminal,” the source said.

Citing the Kerala government’s refusal to part with around 18 acres for the development of TIAL as a major hurdle, he said that the operator has approached AAI to re-initiate talks.

“We require land for expansion of the T2 international terminal. On the positive note, the state government has given in-principle approval for land acquisition near Chakai fire station for lengthening that side of the runway by 140 metres,” the source added.

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