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UDAN: What The Air Connectivity Plan For Smaller Cities Is All About

UDAN: What The Air Connectivity Plan For Smaller Cities Is All About
The Jharsuguda airport in Odisha illuminated a few days before its formal opening. (Source - Twitter account of Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation)

India Ahead

UDAN: What The Air Connectivity Plan For Smaller Cities Is All About

The scheme provides air connectivity to Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

Odisha will get its second airport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the facility at Jharsuguda in western Odisha on Saturday. Constructed under the UDAN scheme with central and state government funding, this will be the state’s second airport after the one in Bhubaneswar.

Jharsuguda airport had earlier received an Airports Authority of India (AAI) licence for operation of aircraft up to Airbus A-320.

A view of the Jharsuguda airport terminal. (Source - Twitter account of Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation)

A view of the Jharsuguda airport terminal. (Source – Twitter account of Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation)

According to AAI, the airport terminal building is spread across 4,000 sq m and is equipped with state-of-the-art passenger facilities. The interiors of the terminal building depict local handcraft, artwork and tourist destinations of the state.

Flight operations from Jharsuguda to Bhubaneswar, Ranchi, and Raipur have been made possible under the UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) Regional Connectivity Scheme. In English, this loosely translates to “Let the common man fly”.

Pakyong Airport, Coming Up Next

The Pakyong airport in Sikkim is an engineering marvel. (Source – Twitter account of Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu)

The Pakyong airport in Sikkim is an engineering marvel. (Source – Twitter account of Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu)

The scheme will ensure that the country’s 100th airport will become operational in Pakyong, Sikkim, in October. The first airport in the state will see SpiceJet begin commercial operations between Pakyong and Kolkata; this will be extended to cover Guwahati by the end of the month.

An engineering marvel, the airport is located barely 60 km from India’s border with China and is considered to be of strategic importance to the armed forces as well. It is expected to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on 23 September.

(Read – Pakyong Airport: An Engineering Marvel That’s All Set To Begin Operations)

What Is UDAN?

File photo of a Dornier 228 aircraft of the Indian Air Force after it landed at Pakyong airport in March. (Source – Official Twitter account of the Sikkim government)

File photo of a Dornier 228 aircraft of the Indian Air Force after it landed at Pakyong airport in March. (Source – Official Twitter account of the Sikkim government)

The Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) first found mention in the National Civil Aviation Policy (NACP), 2016.

It was rechristened UDAN RCS in 2017 with the objective of connecting unserved (no flight operations) and underserved (low flight operations) airports to regional hubs in bigger cities using small aircraft.

The first flight under this scheme, Air India (Alliance Air) flying on the Shimla-Delhi route, was flagged off by Prime Minister Modi from Shimla airport in April 2017. He flagged off two other flights, on the Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors through video conferencing.

Fares have been kept low to make it affordable to the masses; the scheme includes a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) of airlines by the government for a stipulated period of time to cover the difference in the actual fare and the subsidised fare.

Airports Under The UDAN Scheme

File photo of a SpiceJet flight from Hubbali landing at Chennai airport. (Source – Twitter account of Chennai airport)

File photo of a flight from Hubbali after landing at Chennai airport. (Source – Twitter account of Chennai airport)

Under this plan, 31 existing airstrips and airports have been revived and upgraded for regular flight operations. These include connections between metros and smaller cities (Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities) in nearby states, and destinations within the same state.

The programme has been implemented in two phases, with airlines bidding for multiple routes on offer in each round.

UDAN RCS round 1 saw 66 new routes become operational till August 2018. The five operators who received licences included Alliance Air (an Air India subsidiary), Trujet, SpiceJet, Deccan Charters, and Air Odisha.

Round 2 saw permission being given for 26 new routes, with IndiGo, Jet Airways, and Zoom Air also participating this time. Alliance Air and SpiceJet got the right to fly on several routes in this phase as well.

The last two routes to have become operational under each round were Kanpur-Delhi-Kanpur (SpiceJet, under round 1, in July) and Kolkata-Jorhat-Kolkata (IndiGo, under round 2, in August).

The ministry is now looking at international air connectivity under the scheme from some states, including Andhra Pradesh and Assam. It held a stakeholders consultation with airlines and state government officials on 1 September to gather inputs for finalisation of the plan.

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