Profiteering on snacks during TIA flight delays

Published On: April 22, 2017 12:40 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 22: A coffee shop and a first-floor restaurant at the departure hall of  Tribhuwan International Airport domestic terminal  have no price menus. The two establishments charge  passengers exorbitant prices for food and drinks while they awaiting their flights. 

A plate of vegetable chowmin costs up to Rs 500 and a piece of sandwich is Rs 250, according to passengers. Simillarly, a plate of friued rice is Rs 250 and  a bottle of mineral water Rs 100  

With the surge in air traffic congestion  in recent weeks, passengers often have to wait for hours for their flights and it is at such times that the coffee shop and restaurant hike their prices. Flights delays are common due to bad weather and traffic congestion and a few minutes' halt in the morning delays almost all the flights that follow. 

“I had no choice but to pay Rs 500 for a plate of vegetable chowmin and my friend had a piece of sandwich for Rs 250,” complained Suman Acharya, who had to wait  for about 10 hours for his Saurya Airlines flight to Biratnagar last week. Acharya further explained, “We are not allowed to go back outside  after taking the boarding pass and they  increased their prices  once the hall became crammed with delayed passengers.”    
The two establishments have similar prices as they are both  owned by the same person, one Subash Shrestha. This means there is no price competition.  

Four Years Ago, TIA had invited tender bids for renting out shop space on the first floor and ground floor. Shrestha had bid  for both shops in the name of different firms--Hotel Sonica Private Limited and Sahi Kiran Pvt Ltd respectively-- with offers of Rs 19 million and Rs 960,000. He won both bids. 

The tender contract of three years matured last year. But Shrestha is running both shops under a high court stay order in response to a writ petition he filed against TIA's decision to retender the spaces. 

TIA authorities said controlling prices at the coffee shop and restaurant was not their responsibility.

 “We only award the tenders to the highest bidders and we are not the authority to set prices,” TIA Spokesperson Prem Nath Thakur said. 

The shop owner pays the rents to  TIA, a unit of the Civil Aviation of Authorty of Nepal, which had  proposed to distribute Rs 550 million in bonuses to its staff a few months ago.  

Overpricing is also an issue at the international terminal, but there are  several restaurants and other shops there and that results in some competition. 

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