Airports’ revamp hits air pocket

New Delhi, February 19:

The revamp of Delhi and Mumbai airports may run into another rough spell due to the non-availability of operating licenses.

Even after the central government cleared the contentious tender hurdle to get the revamp of the two airports going, the absence of some documents with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is now posing fresh problems for the government.

“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has now cited that the process of physical transfer will not be possible unless the controlling bodies of the two airports transfer their existing licences in the name of the private parties who would now take charge of the airports,” said a source in the ministry of civil aviation.

However, the licences are not in the possession of the AAI. “Since the controlling body is the AAI, a government entity, no one realised the need to obtain licenses for the airports,” said an official of the civil aviation ministry.

Another official close to the AAI chairman’s office said, “An unnecessary confusion has been created. There is no need for a license as the AAI Act stands amended.”

But at the same time he could not say whether the process of handing over the two airports to private parties could come through without the licenses. “There are conflicting statements and we have to look into the matter,” the official said.

The joint venture companies which contested the contracts are also not registered under the Indian Companies Act. “This is a process that would not really take long and will happen in due course, unlike the license issue,” a spokesperson of one of the companies said.

While both the contenders — GVK-South Africa and the GMR-Fraport consortia submitted bank guarantees of $110 million each to gain control of the airports, authorities in the department now say the process could drag on for weeks.