Cochin International Airport may revive user fees

Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL), the company that runs India's first airport built under a public-private partnership at Kochi in Kerala, is likely to levy user fees again. CIAL used to charge a fee of Rs500 per passenger till 2005, but discontinued the levy after sustained protests.

But it appears that the company's shareholders are in favour of reintroducing the user fee for every departing international passenger. Sources said the demand came up at the annual general body meeting held on Monday 10 September, presided over by Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who is CIAL's chairman. The decision has been left to the company's next board meeting.

If CIAL does decide to reintroduce the user fee, it may face strong protests again, because the company made a profit of Rs37 crore ($9.14 million) last year, up from Rs31 crore ($7.66 million) the previous year.

CIAL has a Rs3,500-crore ($864 million) expansion plan, spread over 18 different projects, including a Rs640-crore (IT park, an aviation academy, a maintenance and hangar unit, star hotels and a golf course, all of which are to come up in the 500 acres of land it holds. A new state-of-the-art departure terminal - being built at a cost of Rs35 crore ($8.65 million) - will be ready in 2008.

CIAL was formed as a public limited company with equity participation from the Kerala government, as well as non-resident Indians (NRIs), a majority of whom are based in West Asian countries.