Airports under private management and public-private partnership will continue to be regulated by airport regulator Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) even if they are not ‘major airports’, the aviation ministry has said, in a bid to allay fears of private developers.
“All private or PPP airports will continue to be regulated by the airport regulator,” aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said on Friday.
The issue of regulation arose after the government decided to more than double the passenger traffic threshold for airports to be categorised as ‘major airports’ to 3.5 million per annum from 1.5 million, effectively reducing the ambit of AERA.
The smaller airports were to be regulated by the ministry. This triggered fear among private players that ad hocism would creep into airport regulation. That concern has now been addressed.
“As part of the amendment, there is also a provision that the government can transfer the regulation responsibilities of airports to AERA,” Kharola said. “The procedure to decide charges followed by the aviation ministry is not as elaborate as AERA but it is as detailed.”
For government airports handling less than 3.5 million passengers per annum, the aviation ministry will decide on the charges.
AERA chairman B S Bhullar said the new norm will bring down the number of airports under its ambit to 16 or 17 from 30 airports.
He said the government can ask the regulator to regulate any airport under the law. “It is not just about passengers catered every year but also about the total capacity of the airport,” Bhullar said. “We regulate Kannur airport despite the fact that it does not cater to as many passengers to qualify to become a major airport.”
AERA was created to decide charges at major airports after the government started privatising airport infrastructure that began with airports in Delhi and Mumbai.