MPs find fault with new fees and treatment of VIPs at airports

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee upbraided the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Thursday for increasing its fees at airports in the country when even privileged passengers find the facilities lacking in standard.

While discussing the new fees of Rs1,000 and Rs300 charged respectively from international and domestic passengers, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat noted the discomfort that business class and Commercially Important Persons suffer at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) of Islamabad.

Civil aviation officials in attendance, however, defended the levies.

Director General Civil Aviation Amjad Ali Toor informed the committee that Rs500 million are required to provide foolproof security at the Islamabad Airport.

And Airport Manager Afsar Malik said: "We are not a profit-oriented firm. It is a fee being charged from air passengers to provide them better facilities and security and the measure should be considered recovery of expenses."

Before introducing the charges, approval was sought from the Board of CAA and the International Air Transport Association, he added, reminding that the International Civil Aviation Organisation permits recovering cost of service and development of infrastructure by levying aeronautical charges.

CAA has undertaken many infrastructure development projects and procurement of equipment for which the airport charges have been increased, he said.

"Out of the Rs300 being charged from domestic passengers, Rs200 is the cost of service delivery and Rs100 is spent on providing security," explained the airport manager.

"Five-layered security will be provided at the airport to make it impossible to breach the security" he said.

Committee member Marriyum Aurangzeb, however, found "no justification" to charge the new fees. "Passengers don't get even a porter. They just stand there waiting for help and get late," she said, and demanded that the CAA should tell "what kind of ease has been provided to the passengers" against that amount.

"All over the world special treatment is provided to passengers, but at the Islamabad airport no facility exists even at the VIP lounge," she said.

MNA Syed Javed Ali Shah said he has visited 30 countries and observed that passengers travelling business class are given protocol because when extra payment is received special service should be provided.

Acting Chairperson of the committee Parveen Masood Bhatti said she has not seen any change at the BBIA apart from changing of sofa sets. She instructed the CAA to provide more details about the charges in the next meeting.

The widely criticised new fees of Rs1,000 and Rs300 are collected by the airlines from the international and domestic passengers at the time of purchase of tickets.

On average, 45 flights land at the Islamabad international airport every day carrying over 11,000 passengers. Annually some three million people pass through the airport, which has 20 check-in counters and parking space for 400 vehicles.

Contract awarded to a five-star hotel questioned MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb also questioned the contract awarded to a five-star hotel of Islamabad to provide snacks in the Commercial Important Persons Lounge of the airport.

"I have observed that low quality food is provided there. However, a card has been placed that food has been prepared by a five-star hotel," she said.

She advised the CAA to provide a copy of the tender and criterion that how the contract was awarded to a five-star hotel. Moreover, she suggested that a link to register complaints about food should be available on the website.

"Not only it seems the food which is not used in the hotel is sent to the airport but paying for it too is unacceptable since edibles are offered free at the VIP lounges across the world," she said.

"A bottle of mineral water is sold for three times the normal price. Airport is the first place where foreigners come and they make impression about the country," she said.

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