The recent increase in user development fees and aviation security charges by the Airport Authority of India has caused significant problems for travelers from Agartala to Calcutta. The surge in fees, coupled with high airfares, has made air travel unaffordable for many individuals, especially those belonging to the middle and lower-income brackets. Additionally, the limited availability of train services between Agartala and Calcutta further exacerbates the challenges faced by passengers. As a result, the state government is being urged to address these issues with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Union Railway Ministry to provide relief to affected travelers.
Previously, in the old terminal at the Agartala airport, the user development fees amounted to Rs 350.00. However, a recent decision has raised this fee to Rs 797.00. Additionally, an extra Rs 236 is collected from passengers as aviation security charges. These additional costs, when added to the actual fare, make air travel unaffordable for many passengers, particularly those from middle-class and lower-income backgrounds.
According to airport sources, the cost of air tickets from Agartala to Calcutta has skyrocketed. For instance, no tickets were available for less than Rs 5,800.00, while the fare for Indigo Airlines flights was Rs 7,862.00 as of Saturday evening. This surge in prices is particularly burdensome during the current exam season when many students and their guardians travel to Calcutta for competitive exams and return afterward. The lack of affordable options hampers the mobility of students and other individuals seeking education, medical treatment, or business opportunities in Calcutta and other destinations.
Despite the state government’s reduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on aviation turbine fuel from 16% to 1% in December 2021, it has had little impact on the high airfares imposed by airlines. Agartala differs from other state capital airports in terms of flight operations, as only Indigo and Air India operate flights in the region. This limited competition further restricts passengers’ options and contributes to the elevated airfare rates.
Compounding the challenges faced by travelers, the train services between Agartala and Calcutta are infrequent. Only one express train used to operate between Agartala and Calcutta’s Sealdah station, and there have been no recent changes in the schedule. Consequently, individuals who would have otherwise preferred train travel due to emergencies are forced to opt for air travel, despite the high costs involved.
Harassed and exploited passengers are demanding that the state government intervene by raising the twin issues of high airfare and limited train services with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Union Railway Ministry. It is crucial to address these concerns to provide relief to individuals traveling to Calcutta for education, medical treatment, business purposes, and other essential reasons.
The surge in user development fees and aviation security charges, coupled with high airfare rates and limited train services, have created significant difficulties for individuals traveling from Agartala to Calcutta. The state government must take prompt action and engage with the relevant ministries to find solutions that alleviate the financial burden on passengers. By addressing these issues, the government can ensure that students, patients, businesspersons, and other travelers have access to affordable and convenient transportation options, facilitating their journeys and promoting overall regional connectivity.