Several international carriers are threatening to reduce or eliminate service to Indira Ghandi International Airport (IGi) because of a dramatic increase in fees proposed by the facility’s operator, Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (DIAL)

“The proposed multi-fold increase of landing charges at IGI airport is counterproductive, since India risks pricing itself out of the market for regional aviation hubs in Asia and the Middle East,” says Axel Hilgers, Lufthansa’s director for South Asia. Flights will be diverted from India and its new international gateway at Delhi for the benefit of competing airports in the region, Hilgers say. “Increasing flight traffic, not charges, is the only sustainable way to improve airport utilization and revenues,” he adds.

India’s Airport Economic Regulatory Authority [AERA] met Jan. 18 with stakeholders to discuss the 774% hike in landing, parking, navigation and other charges sought by DIAL beginning April 1. AERA proposes an increase of 334.6%. According to a government official, almost all representatives of international airlines at the meeting opposed the increase, saying the time is not right for this “drastic step.”

The official says airlines like the British Airways, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa strongly opposed DIAL’s proposal.

AirAsia X, the medium- and long-haul arm of low-cost carrier AirAsia, already has discontinued flights from Delhi and Mumbai because of high airport fees. AirAsia also is dropping flights from Hyderabad for the same reason. “The proposed increase will impact Delhi’s prospects of becoming a global airline hub,” says Tom Wright, regional general manager of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways.

Pieter De Man, general manager-India subcontinent for Air France, says Delhi airport is already one of the most expensive airports in Asia and the additional cost to airlines and passengers will run into many millions of dollars. Passengers and airlines using the Delhi airport will have to pay higher charges to fund the development costs of IGI, built at a cost of more than $5 billion.

“We strongly oppose this type of unrealistic and damaging increases and appeal to the Indian authorities to put a halt to the same,” the Air France official says.