Adani eyes airport operations, enters fray for Ahmedabad airport

The Gautam Adani-led infrastructure group  has evinced an interest in the government's move to privatise operations of the Ahmedabad airport; and is considering entering airport operations.

Ahmedabad is among four airports for which the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had invited RFQ (request for quotation) for operation, management and development, the other three being Kolkata, Chennai and Jaipur.

With the AAI planning to lease out these airports for operations and management, Gujarat-based Adani, which is into sea port, power and special economic zone operations, is now trying to enter the airport sector in its home state.

Adani Group is among nine major industrial groups, including GMR, GVK and Tatas, who have evinced interest in airport operations and sources say the Gautam Adani-led group is looking at the Ahmedabad airport.

Other players interested in participating in Airports Authority of India's offer to give out these airports for operations, management and development include, Essel, Siemens, Flemingo, IBDF Zurich and Cochin International Airport.

The NDA government's move to continue with the previous UPA government's privatisation efforts that have resulted in exorbitant cost for passengers and airport customers is, however, facing opposition from employees of the AAI.

These four airports which, incidentally, have been modernised at a cost of Rs5,000 crore by AAI, are now sought to be given to private players for regular operations, without having to invest in infrastructure development.

AAI employees are protesting against the aviation ministry's move to privatise these airports, which would only help top push up costs for users as in the case of private airports in Delhi and Mumbai, which have now become very expensive for both airlines and passengers.

"The government, rather than asking the private corporates to develop greenfield airports, is giving away its own airports to them on a platter. We will not let it happen. Private players are eyeing only revenue-generating AAI airports," AAI Employees Union (AAEU) general secretary Balraj Singh Ahlawat said.

Aviation ministry officials, however, defend the move saying the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) will keep a close watch on these airports to ensure that costs do not go up too much.

The previous UPA-II had initiated a move to privatise six -- Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Guwahati. The plan did not take off then and now, the NDA government is taking the process forward with four airports.