Seaplane service, connectivity to 16 unserved airports and more connectivity between tourist destinations and to Northeastern region are some of the offerings under the third round of government's regional connectivity scheme or UDAN.
The civil aviation ministry on Friday awarded 235 routes across 73 proposals to 11 carriers under the third round of UDAN or
Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik with SpiceJet emerging with the maximum number of proposals. Of the 22 proposals won by SpiceJet, two cater to seaplane operations.
This comes over 1.5 years after the airline entered into an agreement to explore this kind of operations. In October 2017, the airline had entered into an agreement with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings to explore opportunities to acquire 10- and 14-seater amphibious and land planes to provide air connectivity to smaller towns and cities.
On Friday, a total of three seaplane proposals have been approved by the government with the other player being Turbo Aviation Pvt Ltd.
Guwahati river front, Nagarjuna Sagar, Sabarmati River front, Shatrunjay Dam, Statue of Unity, Umrangso Reservoir are the six waterdromes, which will make the platform for the debut of seaplane operations under UDAN-3. The government expects the waterdrome operations to start in 6-8 months, civil aviation secretary R N Choubey said.
CNBC-TV18 had reported earlier in January, quoting sources, that the fourth largest airline in the country, SpiceJet, was likely to emerge with the maximum routes under the third round of regional connectivity scheme, among players like IndiGo, Jet Airways, Air India’s arm Alliance Air, TruJet and Star Air from Ghodawat group.
The 235 routes awarded today will connect 89 airports, including 16 unserved such as Ambala, Car Nicobar, Kota, Rourkela, Shibpur, 17 underserved and 50 served ones.
In total, the 11 carriers will be able to generate a capacity of 6.9 million seats per annum, requiring a viability gap funding of Rs 1,167 crore every year. Out of this, Rs 255 crore will be provided by the toursim ministry as some routes have been included under the scheme as per their recommendation.
This time, most airlines, including SpiceJet, have sought viability gap funding to make the subsidised 50 percent seats on RCS routes financially viable. Ghodawat Enterprises' Star Air is the only carrier which has not sought the financial support for one proposal connecting Kolhapur-Mumbai, an aviation ministry official said.
The third of UDAN has also incorporated four routes in the Northeastern region, which were earlier serviced by Air India's low-cost subsidiary Alliance Air on a nomination basis. These include Kolkata-Shillong, which will now be operated by IndiGo, and Lilabari-Guwahati, to be operated by both IndiGo and SpiceJet.
The government also announced the international segment of UDAN where by states provide the financial support to airlines for connecting their cities to overseas destinations. Under this, SpiceJet will now fly to Dhaka and Bangkok from Guwahati and will get an annual financial support of Rs 11 crore from the Assam government.While the initiative of UDAN has brought traffic and tourism to several parts of the country, the scheme is yet to fully take off and all eyes will be on the start of seaplane operations as the helicopter services launched under UDAN-2 are yet to take off.