The Government today kickstarted its Regional Air Connectivity Scheme (RCS) by awarding 128 regional routes to five airlines — Alliance Air, SpiceJet, Turbo Megha, Air Odisha and Air Deccan.

As a result, there will soon be Salem-Chennai, Kadapa-Chennai, Nanded-Hyderabad and Puducherry-Salem flights on which at least half the passengers will be able to fly at fares of under ₹2,500.

Under the RCS, the Government has proposed at least half the seats on every flight be available under a fare cap of ₹2,500 per seat per hour of flying.

Interestingly, at least two of the airlines that have been awarded routes — Air Odisha and Air Deccan — had been in the news earlier. Air Odisha’s Chairman and Managing Director was arrested last June on charges of cheating while Air Deccan was acquired by Kingfisher Airlines.

However, Minister of State of Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said that the decision to award routes to the airlines was taken only after they gave bank guarantees for the routes. Sanjay Arya, CEO of Air Odisha, told newspersons, “What I believe is that everything is quite normal now.” In the first round of RCS, Alliance Air has got 15 routes, which will see it touch five un-served and two under-served airports. Air Deccan has been awarded 34 routes (10 un-served and five under-served). Air Odisha has won 50 routes.

Un-served airports An un-served airport is one to which there is no daily service, while an under-served airport is one which has not seen a flight for two consecutive flight schedules.

Globally, airlines follow two schedules — a winter schedule from the last Sunday of October to the last Saturday of March of the following year and a summer schedule that runs from the last Sunday of March till the last Saturday of October.

Flights under the RCS scheme could take off as early as April with both Alliance Air and Air Deccan indicating that they plan to launch services between Shimla and Delhi in April.

Air Deccan plans to operate Durgapur-Kolkata and Rourkela-Kolkata flights from July this year and launch flights linking Kullu to Delhi and Pant Nagar to Dehra Dun in August. Air Odisha plans to link Bhavnagar to Ahmedabad and Diu to Ahmedabad in August, followed by flights between Kadapa and Bengaluru, Kadapa and Chennai, Rourkela and Bhubaneswar, and Puducherry and Chennai among others.

Ajay Singh, Chief Executive Officer, SpiceJet, said that the airline will induct three aircraft to participate in the RCS. SpiceJet’s plans include Puducherry-Hyderabad, Porbandar-Mumbai, Adampur-Delhi and Kandla-Mumbai services from August.

Commenting on the first round of RCS, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said, “The geographical spread of the airports covered is interesting.”