After a two-hour flight sitting a few feet away from four boisterous children who made enough noise to put a marching band to shame, emerging at Hyderabad’s swanky new airport for my first visit to the city proved very soothing for my frayed nerves.
The spacious terminal building, high glass walls, and the view, as you step outside, of palm trees and people leisurely posing for photographs in front of water fountains made me recall chaotic scenes back at Delhi’s airport, as I allowed myself a wry grin.
My admiration for what the aviation minister has described as India’s first truly “world-class” airport vaporized when on my return trip, a smiling attendant approached me at the terminal and directed me to a counter that collected 375 rupees from every passenger flying out of the city — courtesy a recently introduced toll called UDF or User Development Fee (International travellers were asked to shell out a thousand rupees).
A UDF is a toll collected by private airport developers to finance in part their project costs, provisions for which were introduced by the government recently with the advent of private players’ participation in development of the country’s airports, although there is no clear policy on how much a developer can charge passengers.
The argumentative Indian that I was, I protested that it seemed absurd to charge passengers so much every time they fly out of the airport, where the most they do is stand in queue to get their boarding passes, maybe use the toilet once and perhaps have a bite at a food joint, which by the way pays money to the airport authorities for operating on the premises.