In the third and largest round yet of bidding for subsidized regional air routes, 11 airlines including IndiGo, Jet Airways, and SpiceJet have won bids for 235 regional connectivity services, the civil aviation ministry announced on Friday.
These services cover 39 airports, including six water aerodromes for seaplanes to take off and land, which is a new feature of the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme that waives certain airport charges and fuel taxes to airlines and offers financial support for ensuring viability of services. Up and down service between two airports are considered two services.
The ministry said SpiceJet would operate international flights under UDAN from Guwahati to Dhaka and Bangkok. However, under UDAN international service, airfare is not capped, unlike the domestic service in which maximum fares are applicable.
The idea of launching these services is to make sure that the convenience of air travel is accessible to everyone, civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu said while announcing the bid result.
The bids awarded also cover 46 services preferred by tourists. The six water aerodromes to be connected under the regional connectivity service are Guwahati River Front, Nagarjuna Sagar, Sabarmati River Front, Shatrunjay Dam, Statue of Unity and Umrangso Reservoir.
Prabhu said more than 6.9 million seats would be added on an annual basis across these 235 services, of which more than 100,000 seats would be through seaplanes.
“UDAN has been a fabulously successful scheme that has provided unprecedented air connectivity... We have been the most enthusiastic supporter of this great initiative from the very beginning and we look forward to operating on the routes that we have been allotted today," said Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of SpiceJet, which bagged 36 routes in the latest round of bidding.
SpiceJet will operate UDAN flights connecting places such as Ghazipur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Jharsuguda in Odisha, Adampur in Punjab, Belagavi in Karnataka, and Bhavnagar in Gujarat where air transport is less accessible.
The routes being awarded involve an annual viability gap funding of ₹895 crore for fixed wing planes, ₹17 crore for sea planes, and ₹255 crore for those with tourism potential. The government has been promoting air travel by upgrading infrastructure.
It recently decided to privatize six airports in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram and Mangaluru as air traffic has been steadily growing. Policymakers have the target of taking the scale of air travel to one billion passengers a year in 15-20 years, nearly four times the 265 million recorded in 2016-17.
A new charter of passenger rights is being prepared.