SpiceJet and Turbo Aviation will be the first Indian airline companies to fly seaplanes on a commercial basis. The companies came out successful winners today to operate the service in the third round of the government’s regional connectivity scheme that aims to connect under-served and unserved airports in the country. The Gurugram-headquartered airline has won the right to fly seaplanes to and from Statue of Unity, besides three other water aerodromes.

Statue of Unity is the world’s tallest statue, built on a river island facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam in river Narmada and is dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel . Seaplanes were not part of the first two rounds of the scheme.

The 235 routes cleared by the ministry cover 16 unserved and 17 under-served airports and six water aerodromes including the memorial. There are 50 airports which are already being served and will be connected to these under-served and unserved airports. There were 11 successful bidders in the round.

The Ajay Singh-promoted airline was again the big winner in the third installment of the scheme, having emerged most successful in the previous two rounds as well. Out of the 73 proposals cleared in the latest round, 24 belong to Spicejet, 12 to InterGlobe Aviation and five to Jet Airways. SpiceJet’s two proposals were among the only three cleared for seaplane operations.

The scheme that aims to make flying affordable for the common man is a pet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It carries the acronym UDAN which stands for Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik.

The regional connectivity scheme or RCS is titled UDAN – an acronym for ‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’. RCS and UDAAN are interchangeably used to refer to the scheme. Under the scheme, the government auctions selected unserved and under-served routes with the award going to the company that asks for lowest viability gap funding.

The winner gets a 3-year exclusive right to operate flights on the route. Fare for half the seats in a flight is capped at 2,500 for an hour of a plane journey of approximately 500 km and a 30-minute helicopter journey. The selected airline provides 50% of the flight capacity – with a minimum of 9 and maximum of 40 seats for planes and a minimum of 5 and maximum of 13 seats for helicopters -- under UDAN.