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.