India is mulling the UDAN 5.1 scheme, whereby it will connect short routes using sub-20 seater aircraft, Civil Aviation Minister Jyoritaditya Scindia said on Wednesday. According to him, the UDAN 5.1 scheme will be designed keeping helicopter routes in mind.

Under the new guidelines of the scheme, only one of the origin or destination locations is in a priority area as against the previous rule, where both points had to be in priority areas. Airfare caps have been reduced by around 25 per cent so as to make “flying in helicopters more affordable for people”.

The cap on viability gap funding (VGF) for the operators has also been substantially increased for both single- and twin-engine helicopters to enhance financial viability for operating the awarded routes.

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“UDAN 5.1 shows greater democratisation for air travel, a focus on last mile connectivity and follows the UDAN 5.0 scheme which was aimed at promoting the sub-20 seater aircraft categories. We are confident that it will serve the unserved and remote areas of the country,” Scindia.

India’s air travel has witnessed a V-shaped recovery post Covid, the Minister said, adding that air travel has bettered pre-Covid numbers. The push would now be to ramp up capacities across existing airports and set up new ones; apart from promoting new modes of air travel like the use of water aerodromes and helicopter travel.

India would also look to place itself as a global transit hub, for which airlines need to push for more wide-bodied aircraft, Scindia said. This would compliment the increased airport capacities that the Centre is planning.