Srinagar, Sep 21: Travelers flying from Srinagar can expect higher costs from next month as the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) has given the green light for a phased increase in aeronautical charges and User Development Fees (UDF).
AERA is a regulatory agency under the Government of India (GoI) that regulates tariffs and other expenditures and fees for major airports.
It is a statutory body constituted under the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.
The Airport Authority of India proposed an increase in UDF but after taking various opinions under consideration, AERA has finally approved the revision of UDF.
As of now, the UDF paid by domestic embarking passengers stands at Rs 394 from Srinagar International Airport.
However, effective from October 1, 2023, this fee is set to rise in phases.
From October 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, domestic embarking passengers would see their UDF increase to Rs 850.
This rate would further rise to Rs 960 from April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2025, and eventually reach Rs 1050 from April 1, 2025, to March 31, 2026.
Additionally, 18 percent GST is charged on this fee.
For international embarking passengers, the UDF would also experience an increase from the current Rs 787 to Rs 1110 (with an additional 18 percent GST starting next month.
This rate would remain in effect until March 31, 2026, as outlined in the AERA order.
While UDF is paid directly by travellers, aeronautical charges are levied on airlines, who then adjust airfares accordingly.
Airport Authority of India, Srinagar, had initially proposed a higher increase in domestic UDF, citing that nearly 99 percent of passenger traffic at the Srinagar Airport consists of domestic flights.
The AERA order, however, sets the revised rates, which are more moderate.
AAI’s proposal sought to raise domestic UDF to Rs 1150 for this fiscal year, Rs 1680 for FY 2025, and Rs 2447 for FY 2026.
The hike in aeronautical charges and UDF is expected to impact the overall cost of air travel to and from Srinagar.
“Travellers and airlines will need to factor in these changes when planning their journeys, and passengers should be prepared for adjustments in airfare as a result of these increased fees. The AERA’s decision reflects the ongoing dynamics in aviation economics and its efforts to maintain sustainable operations at the Srinagar Airport while meeting the needs of passengers and stakeholders,” a senior airline executive said.
The escalating airfares are a growing concern for both the residents of Kashmir and the tourism industry, which bear the brunt of exorbitant fares, especially during periods when the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway becomes inaccessible due to unpredictable weather conditions.