In 2017, the Civil Aviation Ministry first announced the UDAN scheme for regional air connectivity. 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 common man. The idea is to put smaller cities and remote regions on the aviation map, by getting domestic airlines to fly more on 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. They must sell a specific number of seats on each flight at a fixed fare of INR.2,500 for one hour of flying. In the case of helicopter operations, it has been allowed for the first time now and the fares are capped at INR.2,500 for a 30-minute flight.
Initially, there was scepticism whether UDAN would take off or not. Come 2018, we not only have UDAN got off the ground successfully by connecting 16 new regional airports in the first round of bids but also the Indian Government announced the winners of the second round of bidding in January this year.
Five airlines, including Air Deccan and Air Odisha, won bids to operate Udan flights on 128 routes. While winners of the first round were announced in March last year, many routes are yet to be operational on account of multiple factors. Addressing the issue of long delays, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has given a month’s time to Air Deccan and Air Odisha to start operations on routes bagged by them in the first round of bidding under the regional air connectivity scheme.
The Indian government announced that it will provide flight connectivity to about 325 regional routes through 90 proposals. During the second phase of UDAN, 25 unserved and 17 underserved airports will be connected to 36 served airports and 31 helipads and heliports. 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 and remote places. In all, 109 regional airports and heliports have been connected. The two rounds of bidding has also 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.
The second round brought several tier 2 and tier 3 cities like Kargil in J&K on 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.
Tentatively, by June 2018 passengers can hop on a helicopter from Almora to Pantnagar or from Mussoorie to Dehradun at fares up to INR 2,480. Air travellers, airlines, helicopter operators, and the economy certainly benefit from the enhanced air connectivity that UDAN provides. This 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.
Avdel India is very excited about these opportunities and hopes to leverage the most out of the UDAN scheme by providing assistance through its services of Sales, Lease, and Acquisition of pre-owned aircrafts and Interior refurbishment services.