New Delhi: The government should ensure that the development of infrastructure at airports is cost-effective and the cost of travel remains within the reach of the common man, a Parliamentary Panel has recommended while voting against the concept of "gold plating" of airports. The panel headed by Rajya Sabha MP Sujeet Kumar has said that the most important stakeholder in the sector is the common passenger whose aspiration and need to undertake air travel will deepen with the passage of time and growth of the economy.
The committee has also suggested that user charges should remain affordable and competitive as compared to other airports in the Asia Pacific region.
"India is a developing country and passengers are price conscious. In our national civil aviation policy, affordability and sustainability have been emphasised by the government. The Committee observes that maximum people use the airports just for travel, do the baggage check-in, get their baggage on arrival and leave. Other peripherals cannot be given that much importance as could rather be given to the passenger service," the panel said in its report tabled in Rajya Sabha.
"It is true that the quality of airport infrastructure is a vital component of the overall transportation network as it contributes directly to the country's international competitiveness and the flow of foreign funds. The Committee is, however, of the view that whilst the airport terminals need to be comfortable and facilitate a smoother and hassle-free journey, they need not be overly opulent and the concept of gold plating of airports by the private operators should be avoided," it added.
Gold plating refers to incorporating expensive costly features or refinements that tend to push up the cost of a project.
Noting that India is a "resource constrained" country, the panel has recommended that the government must ensure that modernisation of airports, both Airport Authority of India (AAI) run and privately run, must provide the infrastructure efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, using the technology so that the cost of operations is brought down.
"Government should ensure that cost-effective services are provided to passengers as well as airline operators and the cost of travel remains within the reach of common man and the vision envisaged in the National Civil Aviation Policy to create an ecosystem to make flying affordable for the masses is realised," it said.
The panel report on "Petition Praying for Modernisation of Airports by Airports Authority of India" has suggested the government should develop world-class standards but at the same time ensure they are cost-effective and user charges remain affordable and competitive as compared to other airports in Asia Pacific region.
The committee also observed that despite the phenomenal growth in traffic, most Indian carriers are reeling under losses and in this context cost effective operations and sustainability are a must for airlines to operate in the long run.
"Public funds for development of airports are getting scarcer. Since the quantum of funds required for creation of world class civil aviation infrastructure facilities is huge, private sector involvement in the airport sector has got to grow so that the large gap in resources could be bridged and greater efficiency in management of airports in the country could be brought in.
"Taking these facts into consideration, the Committee is of the view that PPP in the airport sector has been a success story in terms of creation of world class airport infrastructure and service quality and given a lot of growth in aviation market," the panel report said.