All you wanted to know about...UDAN

Ashwini Phadnis Ashwini Phadnis SLATE | Updated on January 29, 2018

When the civil aviation ministry first announced the UDAN scheme for regional air connectivity in 2017, many were sceptical about whether it would take off. Not only has UDAN got off the ground, successfully connecting 16 new regional airports in the first round of bids, the Government announced the winners of the second round of bidding last week.

What is it?

UDAN(Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) is the Government’s initiative to make air travel to India’s tier II and tier III cities affordable to the aam aadmi. The idea is to put smaller cities and remote regions on the aviation map, by getting domestic airlines to ply more regional routes. Under the scheme, the Government offers incentives to airlines to flag off new flights to neglected smaller cities and towns by providing Viability Gap Funding to make these operations profitable. Airlines are required to bid for exclusive rights to fly on the regional routes opened up under the scheme. They must sell a specific number of seats on each flight at a fixed fare of ₹2,500 for one hour of flying. In the case of helicopter operations, allowed for the first time now, fares are capped at ₹2,500 for a 30-minute flight.

Why is it important?

After the second round of bidding in UDAN, air travellers can now fly with known names such as Jet Airways, IndiGo and Pawan Hans to far-flung places. In all, 109 regional airports and heliports have been connected.

The second round saw several tier 2 and tier 3 cities such as Kargil in J&K join the network. Besides these airports, 14 helipads in Uttarakhand, eight in Arunachal Pradesh, six in Himachal Pradesh, five in Manipur and four in Assam have been pressed into service in UDAN 2, making it easier for people in these regions to fly to other cities.

This should happen within six months as operators have to start services within this time-frame after the award of contract, subject to the Airports Authority of India getting the airport/heliport ready.

The scheme gives India’s aviation sector a boost by giving a chance to small and first-time operators to be a part of the rapid growth in passenger traffic.

These two rounds of bidding have seen newer players such as Heritage Aviation, Maritime Energy Heli Air Services, Turbo Aviation, Zoom Air and Pinnacle winning bids to operate flights. Robust regional connectivity is also expected to deliver an economic boost to the remote locations that make it to the country’s new aviation map.

Why should I care?

UDAN gives flyers a chance to fly to and from far-flung airports like Hubballi and Baldota in Karnataka, Burnpur in West Bengal, Darbhanga in Bihar, Hissar in Haryana, Kannur in Kerala and Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, to name just a few.

UDAN also makes travel to remote cities quite affordable. It connects city pairs such as Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi three times a week at maximum fares of ₹1,650, Cooch Behar in West Bengal to Guwahati in Assam at fares up to ₹1,570, and Burnpur to Guwahati for up to ₹2,570 for the seats to be sold under the scheme.

Latest by June this year, passengers can hop on for helicopter rides from Almora to Pantnagar or from Mussoorie to Dehradun at fares up to ₹2,480. Air travellers, airlines, helicopter operators and the economy as a whole should benefit with the enhanced air connectivity that UDAN seeks to provide.

The bottomline

UDAN may have started off on a prayer but is now taking wing.

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Published on January 29, 2018

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