The Ministry of Civil Aviation has taken a major step towards making flying a reality for the small town common man. The ministry’s regional connectivity scheme, UDAN – Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik – is being touted as an innovative scheme to develop the regional aviation market, besides ensuring affordability, connectivity, growth and development. It would provide a win-win situation for all stakeholders – citizens would get the benefit of affordability, connectivity and more jobs.
The UDAN scheme envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air strips and airports, thereby expanding regional air connectivity and markets. State governments would reap the benefit of development of remote areas, enhanced trade and commerce and more tourism expansion.
It is a market-based mechanism in which airlines bid for seat subsidies. “This first-of-its-kind scheme globally will create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns,” says the ministry.
Under the Centre’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), five airlines have won bids to operate on 128 routes which will be connecting 70 airports. Out of the 70 airports, 31 are un-served and 12 under-served. While under-served airports are those which do not have more than a flight per day, un-served airports are those where there are no operations. The first flight under UDAN is expected to start soon.
The flights will be connecting airports spread across over 20 states and union territories including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
Some of the airports covered under the scheme are Shimla, Kandla, Puducherry, Bhatinda, Bilaspur, Ludhiana, Jaisalmer, Porbandar, Diu, Jamnagar, Jamshedpur, Hosur, Salem Neyveli, Cooch Behar, Nanded, and Kadapa.
In the first round, Air Odisha Aviation has won the bid to connect the maximum number of un-served airports in the country. Other carriers which have won bids to fly to un-served airports in tier-2 cities include Air India’s subsidiary Alliance Air, Air Deccan, SpiceJet, Air Odisha and Turbo Megha Airways. Air Odisha Aviation has won bids for 50 routes under its wing followed by Air Deccan (34) and Turbo Megha Airways (18). Alliance Air won the bid for 15 routes, while SpiceJet will be operational on 11 routes. The carriers will operate 19-78 seater aircrafts.
While the scheme attempts to tackle the issue of ghost airports, it also allows for reduction in travelling expenses. 50% seats on each flight will come at Rs 2,500 per seat for one-hour travel. The operators will also be extending viability gap funding, which will be operational for three years from the date of starting operations in a specific UDAN route.
“UDAN network will cover the whole country, giving a major economic boost to hinterland areas. This will have a positive effect on the economy, in terms of employment and investment,” said Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju in a tweet.