New Delhi: SpiceJet Ltd is in talks with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings Inc. to buy seaplanes to increase remote area connectivity in India, the airline said on Wednesday.
The low-fare airline is exploring the introduction of small 10 and 14 seater amphibious plane in places where there are infrastructural challenges.
"With the ability to land in a small or confined space, smaller fixed wing aircraft are the perfect flying machines that can effectively connect the country’s remote cities and airstrips which can in turn revolutionize the regional connectivity scheme," SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh said in a statement.
"Even while we are acknowledged as one of the world’s fastest growing markets, the ground reality remains that only about 3% Indians travel by air. Infrastructural challenges have been a key deterrent for providing air connectivity to smaller towns and cities."
Amphibious planes have the ability to take off and land from places that do not have landing strips and where no runway exists thus reaching areas where there is no other mode of transport available. Reliable, tough and resilient these smaller fixed wing aircraft can land on water bodies, gravel and grass.
Transport minister Nitin Gadkari has been pushing for making seaplanes in India.
The Japanese firm said it has already tested its plane in Nagpur and Guwahati.
"Under this association, we have already executed land plane demonstrations in Nagpur and Guwahati. As a next step, we would also like to go for seaplane demonstration soon," said Go Okazaki, executive managing director, Setouchi Holdings Inc.
Amphibious planes can be used for tourism and adventure sports like sky diving as also emergency evacuations.
Typically airlines use small 70-seater or smaller planes for regional flights depending on the runway of an airport.
In the government's ongoing Udan scheme five airlines—Air India, SpiceJet, Turbo Megha, Air Odisha and Air Deccan—have been allotted 128 routes to fly in the first round of UDAN in March. About 18 routes have become operational including the underserved airports of Gwalior, Kadapa, Puducherry, Porbandar, Bathinda, Bikaner, Ludhiana, Kandla, Nanded and Shimla.
UDAN—or Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik, which loosely translates as “let the common man fly"—is a regional connectivity scheme that encourages airlines to fly to underserved airports at low fares. The airlines have to sell a certain number of seats (between nine and 40 currently) on such flights at a maximum of Rs2,500 per hour of flying. In return, they receive a subsidy from the government.