Under the ambitious Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme, Modi government awarded 235 routes to 11 operators. This is the third phase of Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) and 16 unserved and 17 underserved aerodromes with a total of 89 airports would be connected. The tourist spots in hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Northeastern states were given priority under the scheme. Some part of the financing for access to tourist spots would come from Tourism ministry.
Some international flights would also operate under the UDAN scheme. “SpiceJet will fly to Dhaka and Bangkok from Guwahati under the international plan. While we would prefer the airline to fly daily flights between Guwahati and Dhaka/Bangkok, it will initially start off with three flights a week and expand as per booking trends,” said a government official. The government has not capped the prices under UDAN scheme. “No capping of funds/prices will be done under UDAN International. They will be determined as per market trend,” said aviation secretary, R N Choubey.
Uttar Pradesh bagged 28 routes in the third phase of RCS scheme. Rajasthan got 12 airports approved and Maharashtra and Gujarat got 9 airports while Chandigarh, Goa, Haryana, Meghalaya and Uttrakhand got single airport connectivity, Chattisgarh, Delhi, J&K, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Tripura two airports approved. The third phase of UDAN is expected to expand the seat capacity by 69.30 lakhs and would cost central government around 1,167 crore rupees annually. In the third phase, there are 21 routes yet to be awarded, the bid for these routes will open on February 8.
Under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) launched in April 2017, the government is working to make air travel affordable and increase the connectivity in tier two and tier three cities of the country. As many as 43 cities are expected to get regular connectivity under this new scheme and a dozen airports where limited but irregular flights operate will be connected. 31 destinations which were not connected earlier despite having airports will now become active.
The much talked about Udega Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme is part of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was released on June 15, 2016. The airfares dropped by 18 percent in 2017 over average airfare in 2015, making air travel more affordable for everyone in the country. It must be noted that this development is against rising fuel prices over the last two years. The government gives various concessions to airlines having flights to smaller cities under this new scheme, therefore, places such as Shillong, Shimla, Bhatinda, Ludhiana, Bhuntar, Pathankot, Mysore and Salem among others, saw a good number of passenger traffic movement in April as opposed to the corresponding period last year. Shimla, where PM Modi flagged off the UDAN scheme saw a whopping 549.4 percent growth with 1,117 in April as against only 172 during the same period last year.
Indian airlines carried more than 12 crore passengers in the fiscal year 2017-18 against 6.1 crore passengers in the fiscal year of 2013-14. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the number of passengers is a whopping 19 percent. There was a rise of 18.1% over the corresponding month from the previous year. Growth in international and domestic air traffic over India for the month of April 2018 was 5.8% and 21.1% respectively.
Air travel was considered a luxury in the country since independence, and the previous governments made little efforts to increase air connectivity or to make it cheaper. The air passenger traffic was limited to metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. Since private airlines have been allowed to operate in the market, they have brought airfare to a significantly lower level due to healthy competition. The exponential increase in domestic passenger traffic coming from non-metropolitan cities is a prime example of how the government could positively support private industries and companies to serve the common public under the UDAN scheme.