• Pay regional connectivity levy either from pocket or charge customer, Aviation minister tells airlines

    The aviation ministry has warned private airlines that they need to start contributing to the corpus that will fund the regional connectivity scheme.

    “You (airlines) are contesting that it (the charge) is illegal. Now we, within the government, have a procedure and a whole department of law. No proposal is brought out unless the legal department approves it. Now, we are a free country — even a murderer can go to court,” aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju told ET.

    “I go by our law department. They say it is legal. No government will bring out an illegal rule. So, they are liable by law. We do not intervene in airline’s business plans. So, whether they charge it from passengers or pay it themselves is their call,” he added.

    He said the regional connectivity scheme was drawn up after discussions with stakeholders, including airlines. The scheme, which aims to provide regional connectivity at Rs 2,500 per hour of flight, is to be funded by charging carriers a fee per landing at all major airports in the country.

    The Centre has imposed a levy of Rs 7,500 per flight between cities that are up to 1,000 km apart. For distances of 1,000-1,500 km, the levy will be Rs 8,000 per flight, and for above 1,500 km, Rs 8,500 per flight.

    The money is to be deposited in an escrow account operated by the Airports Authority of India. It’s estimated that this will earn Rs 500 crore annually to fund up to 90% of the subsidy cost to make regional flights financially viable for operators.

    Barring Air India, which started levying a fee of Rs 70 per passenger on most domestic routes from January 16, no other airline has started paying it.

    Private airlines have termed the levy illegal. The Federation of Indian Airlines, which comprises IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and GoAir, have also challenged the government’s order in courts.

    Minister of state for aviation Jayant Sinha had told a press conference that the government is in talks with airlines to resolve the issue.  Kolton Miller Womens Jersey

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