On 27 April Narendra Modi will be starting the first flight under the UDAN scheme. The programme is supposed to provide impetus to regional connectivity by way of low-cost flights. He will be launching a flight that will ply in the sector between Shimla and Delhi. The first flight will be operated from the Jubbar Hatti Airport in the vicinity of Shimla by Alliance Airlines. According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), there are two other sectors that would be operational right now – Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad.
The Prime Minister of India is expected to flag off the inaugural flights in these sectors as well on a later date. TruJet would be operating the flights in these sectors. The full form of UDAN is ude desh ka nagarik. In English this can translated to “the country’s citizen flies”. According to a tweet by the PMO, this is the first time in the world that a market-based mechanism is being used to foster regional connectivity.
More on the programme
The PMO has also stated that the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) was launched during October 2016 in order to make sure that people in regionally-important locations were able to access air travel at a greater rate than before. The RCS also happens to be an integral part of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) that had been introduced on 15 June 2016. As per the PMO, for a journey on a fixed wing aircraft that lasts an hour and covers a distance of almost 500 km, a passenger would need to pay a maximum of INR 2500. The payment would be similar for a 30 minute journey on a helicopter.
The pricing structure
The PMO further states that pricing would be decided on a proportionate basis – in accordance with the lengths of various flights. The official statement also reveals that as of now 24 airports in the western region, 12 in the east, 17 in the north, six in the northeast, and 11 in the south have been decided to be a part of the programme. The government, through this programme, wishes to connect 45 underserved and un-served airports in India. Incidentally, Shimla stands to gain because till date it has not had air connectivity. It had also submitted a petition asking for flights to be restarted but that had been suspended during 2012.
Charting the routes and more
As reported by the Press Trust of India (PTI), five airports have already received permission for 128 routes as part of the programme. This was done following a bidding process. The airline operator selected to be in the programme would have to come up with half the flight capacity. In case of helicopters, the journey has to last at least five hours and 13 hours at the most. They would also be provided viability gap funding (VGF) by the government as part of the programme. After the first round of bidding it is being estimated that the government would need to spend around INR 205 crore each year for the scheme.
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