Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) on Wednesday agreed in Delhi High Court to defer till February 8, its decision to charge a fee on in-flight food and beverages provided by private airlines like Spicejet, Indigo, Goair and Jet Airways.
DIAL gave this oral assurance before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva who issued notice to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, DIAL, Airports Authority of India (AAI) and four flight kitchen operators –Oberoi Flight Services, Taj Sats Air Catering Ltd, Ambassador (SkyChef) and Sky Gourmet Catering Pvt Ltd –and sought their replies on a plea by Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) against the levy of 16 per cent fee on the cost price of food and beverages procured by the carriers. It asked the airlines to provide a copy of their food procurement agreement and the agreements they have with the various flight caterers to provide in-flight refreshments.
FIA, which represents Spicejet, Indigo, Goair and Jet Airways, has claimed that as per the letter of November 11, the in-flight kitchen operators had to pay the fees to DIAL with effect from November 15.
Another letter of Dec 1, 2016, which too has been challenged by FIA, said that DIAL would not allow inside the IGI Airport any flight catering vehicle carrying items procured outside. FIA, represented by senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, has contended that DIAL’s actions will have a direct impact on the airlines as the in-flight kitchen operators will recover the charges from them and this in turn will affect the air fares. DIAL, represented by advocate Arvind Nigam, said the airlines cannot carry on the business of flight catering.
He contended that once the agreements are perused, it might turn out that the airlines were procuring food through their sister concerns.
The judge asked FIA to provide copies of its agreements to DIAL after redacting the confidential portions, but to file unedited copies in a sealed cover before the court and listed the matter for further hearing on February 8. DIAL agreed to defer its decision till then. In its petition, FIA has said that DIAL was already charging a fee from the flight caterers for allowing their vehicles to enter the airport and its latest decision to deny entry to them “amounts to abuse of dominant position”.
Govt defends its Rs 7,500-8,500 levy per flight in Delhi HC
The proposal to levy Rs 7500 to Rs 8500 per flight operated by Indian carriers to create a fund to develop regional airports was defended on Wednesday by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Director General of Civil Aviation in Delhi High Court. Terming as "misconceived" a plea challenging the scheme, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal were told that the policy would eventually lead to the growth of the civil aviation sector as whole.
"The government has proposed to take flying to the masses by making them affordable and convenient. For example, if every Indian in the middle class income bracket takes just one flight in a year, it would result in a sale of 35 crore tickets, a big jump from seven crore domestic tickets sold in 2014-15," the ministry and the DGCA said in a joint affidavit. "This will be possible if air fare, especially on the regional routes, are brought down to an affordable level."
The reduction in costs will require concessions by the central and state governments and airport operators, the affidavit said. The ministry and DGCA's response came in the backdrop of a plea by Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) which has said that while the scheme allows it to pass on the levy to the passengers, it cannot do so as it is not a fee for which the carriers are rendering any service to the flyers. The FIA, which represents scheduled carriers like Indigo, GoAir, Spicejet and Jet Airways, has sought quashing of the October 21 notification inserting the rule for imposing the levy as well as the Nov 9 order declaring rates of levy and the categories of the scheduled flights on which they would be imposed.