Under flak for the steep hike in ground handling tariff at Lucknow airport, the Adani Group issued a clarification on June 3. The company has pinned the blame on the ground handling agency, claiming that it had "no role" in deciding the rates.
"Bird Worldwide Flight Services (BWFS), the ground handling agency at Lucknow airport revised the charges without informing Adani Airports. The call was taken without our consent and without adhering to the required approval process," the statement said.
The statement from the Adani Group comes three days after reports claimed that the ground handling tariff for non-scheduled operators has been increased by up to "10 times".
Adani Group further claimed that it has directed BWFS to drop the hike in tariff and refund the collections at the earliest.
"Considering this process breach we have directed them to drop the increased charges and refund the collections with immediate effect," it said.
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According to the extant orders/guidelines, ground handling charges are regulated by the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA). "The role of the airport operator is limited to the selection of the GH agency," Adani Group pointed out.
Adani Airports - which won the operating contracts for the erstwhile government-run Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangaluru airports - said it had selected the GH agencies through an open competitive bidding process and awarded the mandate accordingly.
"After award of work, it is the ground handling agency’s responsibility to obtain the necessary security and regulatory approvals. The ground handling agency then enters into agreements with airlines, and other operators for the rates of the various services. The airport operator has no role in this," it stated.
Airports privatisation has previously led to increased charges at the Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad airports – which was opposed by aviation bodies such as the International Air Transport Association and Federation of Indian Airlines.
In lieu of this, the government in 2018 brought in changes in the bidding criteria to move away from the revenue sharing model (Mumbai and Delhi) to the per-passenger revenue model (the six won by Adani). However, charges have continued to increase.