UDAN set to connect 100 regional airports soon

In a major
push to the government’s flagship regional connectivity scheme, Prime Minister
Narendra Modi plans to almost double its reach by starting subsidised flights
to 100 airports in the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the civil
aviation ministry to examine adding 44 airports under the scheme called Ude
Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN). “The aviation ministry has to examine the
possibility of adding another 44 airports under the scheme,” said a senior
government official who did not want to be identified.

The government has announced flights connecting
56 airports and 31 helipads in the initial two phases. Under UDAN, air
connectivity is provided to unserved and underserved airports at a subsidised
fare of Rs 2,500 per hour. The subsidy is funded through a mix of a charge of
Rs 5,000 per flight for all airlines operating on domestic trunk routes and
through the Airports Authority of India’s dividend payment.

Airlines and helicopter operators that have bid
for and won these routes are in the process of starting flights. Only
state-owned Air India and SpiceJet participated in phase I, while the second
phase attracted IndiGo and Jet Airways, too.

IndiGo has ordered 50 ATR aircraft for these
routes and SpiceJet has increased the number of Bombardier Q 400 aircraft on
order to 50. SpiceJet bid for routes without seeking subsidy in the first and
second phase, IndiGo did not seek subsidy to operate regional flights.

Widening regional air connectivity was in the
BJP manifesto and the Prime Minister inaugurated the first flight under UDAN by
Air India on the Shimla-New Delhi route in April last year.

PM Modi, during the launch of the first flight,
said his government intends to make people wearing hawai chappal (slippers) fly
in hawai jahaaz (airplanes).

The focus on expansion may mean the government will project
the scheme as one of its achievements.