Centre awards 235 routes under UDAN, seaplanes to fly on 18 routes
New Delhi: Seaplanes will fly on 18 air routes among the 235 routes awarded Friday under the government's ambitious regional connectivity scheme that will also connect 16 unserved airports and six water aerodromes.
Announcing the awards of the third round of regional air connectivity scheme or UDAN, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said as many as 69.30 lakh seats would be added on an annual basis across the 235 routes. More than 1 lakh seats would be through seaplanes.
Besides, the civil aviation ministry announced that SpiceJet would operate international flights under UDAN from Guwahati to Dhaka and Bangkok.
SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways, Air India subsidiary Airline Allied Services Ltd or Alliance Air, and Turbo Aviation are among the operators that have bagged the routes in the third round.
Other operators that have been awarded routes are Andaman Airways Pvt Ltd, Aviation Connectivity and Infrastructure Developers Pvt Ltd, Ghodawat Enterprises Pvt Ltd, Heritage Aviation, Turbo Megha Airways Pvt Ltd and Zexus Air Services Pvt Ltd.
Together, 73 proposals of the 11 operators have been approved by the ministry.
A total of 89 airports, including 16 unserved and 17 underserved aerodromes, would be connected under the third round of UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), which seeks to connect unserved and underserved airports as well as make flying affordable.
Out of them, two proposals for operating seaplanes are from SpiceJet and one from Turbo Aviation, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said.
Six water aerodromes would be connected with UDAN flights. They are at Guwahati River Front and Umrangso Reservoir (Assam), Nagarjuna Sagar (Telangana), Sabarmati River Front, Shatrunjay Dam, and Statue of Unity (Gujarat).
Choubey said that water aerodromes are expected to be ready in the next six to eight months. A ministry official said seaplanes would operate on 18 routes. Choubey said the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) requirements for the total seats — 69.30 lakh — under the latest round are estimated to be around Rs 1,167 crore.
The VGF is shared by the ministry and the states concerned.
According to Choubey, the levy charged from airlines flying on key routes towards VGF would not be increased.
"We are not going to increase the levy which is there for the purpose of collecting VGF. Instead the funds would be provided from the dividends payable by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the government... without any additional burden on air passengers," he added.
The 235 routes, include 46 tourism routes or those that connect tourist destinations.
For tourism routes, there would be no exclusivity of operations and no airport concessions would be extended.
For UDAN 3, the ministry received 111 initial proposals and 17 counter proposals from 15 bidders covering more than 350 routes.
At present, flights are operating in around 155 UDAN routes.
As per the ministry, 13 lakh seats were created in the first round of and and 29 lakh seats in the second round.
Prabhu said that many state government have been asking for air connectivity to more areas. Those areas which in the opinion of the state government should be connected, would be connected and in this regard, the ministry would come out with more routes under "UDAN 3.5" next month.
In response to questions about Air Deccan and Air Odisha stopping their operations under UDAN, Choubey said that "some mortality in UDAN routes is inevitable".
"UDAN is a completely novel thing that is happening. Some mortality in UDAN routes is inevitable because people may start and find that it is just not working. That is something we should accept. You will notice that Air Deccan and Air Odisha have not been allowed in the list of 11 airlines. So we have taken precaution...," he noted.
About Guwahati set to have UDAN flights to Dhaka and Bangkok, Choubey said Guwahati is getting connected to two international destinations at "a very nominal cost of Rs 11 crore per annum to the Assam government".
"... if the passenger load factor is higher, then the subsidy burden on state government will be less than Rs 11 crore. It is only a ceiling," Choubey said.
In a release, SpiceJet said it has been awarded 36 new sectors under the third round of UDAN.