DUBAI // India's minister of state for tourism has joined a chorus of opposition to the planned increase in charges at New Delhi's airport.
The 346 per cent rise in Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport's landing and parking charges may discourage tourists, Sultan Ahmed said on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
"We are opposing this. It is not only affecting domestic travellers but also international travellers coming from Dubai and other destinations," said Mr Ahmed.
"There are also talks that this fee might be extended to other airports like Bangalore and Hyderabad. The government is looking into it."
The fee rise was approved by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Aera) last Wednesday and will come into effect on May 15.
It is expected to be passed on to customers through prices of air ticket to the Indian capital.
Domestic prices may rise by about Dh20 and international fares by as much as Dh40, meaning a ticket from New Delhi to Mumbai would cost about 2 per cent more and a ticket from Dubai to New Delhi up to 4 per cent more.
Delhi International Airport officials welcomed the revision in charges, saying current tariffs were among the lowest in the world.
"Delhi airport will compare favourably to other major global airports, where passenger fees range between US$25 (Dh91) to $30 on an average, thus making a very soft impact on the passengers," the airports company said.
"This increase will be a significant step in stemming the losses of Delhi International Airport Limited and take us towards viability."
GMR Group, which operates Delhi international airport, said the fee increase was necessary for maintenance of the airport.
But the increase has been strongly criticised by the All India Airport Users Forum in Sharjah.
The expatriate lobby group's members said they had taken on a similar issues when users fees at Calicut and Cochin airports in Kerala were raised in 2010. That move was eventually overturned.
"We oppose any kind of hike in airport charges and users fees at any airport in India," said KM Basheer, the president of the association.
"The Indian government has become commercial and is thinking of earning extra money by charging passengers. This is not acceptable."
Mr Basheer said his more than 3,000 members would meet to plan a strategy to fight the rise.
"It's unjustifiable. The airport should not collect any extra fee from passengers. We are going to fight it out," he said.
Mr Basheer said members would also send a letter to the Indian government requesting it immediately drop the proposed fee.
"The contribution of non-resident Indians to the growth of the country is tremendous," he said, adding it would be unfair to charge returning expatriate workers any more than they already paid.
Emirates Airline has also raised concerns about the issue.
"We are concerned by the proposed increase in airport changes at Delhi airport," said a spokesman for the airline. "We are currently in discussions with the relevant authority."
Meanwhile, Mr Ahmed said his government was hoping to connect more airports in India with Dubai.
"There are plans to connect smaller cities like Patna," he said. "We are also talking to private carriers on this issue.
"The government is trying to revive Air India, which is in a bad shape. This would give a major boost to tourism sector in India."
The government is also considering extending a "visa on arrival" facility to Gulf nationals, Mr Ahmed said.
"The process has already begun in this direction," he said. "We might see positive results by end of this year."