Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has warned that the airline will re-consider flying to the Maldives if airport operator GMR maintains its apparent plan to raise airport handling fees at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by 51 percent.
Reuters reported that the airline was “‘dismayed’” over what it understood to be GMR’s plan to increase the handling fee at some future date, and suggested such a move would “threaten Quatar Airways’ continued presence in the Maldives.”
Noting that the Maldives’ economy is based on tourism, Akbar Al Baker called the planned increase “totally unreasonable.”
“If we or any other major player withdraws services because of these unwarranted and draconian measures, it will be the people of the Maldives who will lose out, affecting their livelihoods as they rely heavily on the tourism industry,” he said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“My message to the Maldives authorities is to think rationally about the future prosperity of your tourism industry. These steps may have not been thought through seriously by the airport operator and I urge them to think again.”
GMR spokesman Amir Ali said that the fee hike had already been made by the Maldives Airport Company Ltd (MACL) shortly before GMR assumed control of the airport, adding that while there were no plans for a further increase at present, prices were dependent on factors such as fuel prices.
“I believe the fee was increased because of the rise in fuel prices, but I’m not sure since the decision was made by MACL some time ago,” Ali said.
GMR had received no official communication from Qatar Airways, he added.
Since taking over INIA in 2010 GMR has made several adjustments to airport operations in an effort to match the airport’s facilities to those expected by visitors to the country’s upmarket resorts. While progress has been rapid, the local population has also voiced discontent with changes to baggage handling services and departure fees.
GMR was recently challenged in court over its recent attempt to collect an Airport Development Charge (ADC) beginning in 2012, a stipulation which was included in its concession agreement with the government. While the Maldives Civil Court ruled against the ADC in December, the government appealed the case to the High Court, declaring that it was obliged to honor its agreement with the airport developer.