Discounted tickets all booked on new Shimla-Delhi flights

With all subsidised flights between Delhi and Shimla launched under the government's UDAN scheme getting fully booked till June, the government will soon extend the scheme to more destinations, minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said on Friday.

Within a day of its debut flight between Shimla and Delhi, the discounted Rs2,036 tickets under a government' subsidising air travel scheme on short sectors has been booked on the route till June.

This is because the UDAN flights are priced at less than half the current non-subsidised seats priced between Rs5,300 and Rs19,080, according to the website of Air India

Alliance Air, subsidiary of the national flag carrier, operates the flights. Alliance has deployed a 42-seater aircraft on the sector. The flight will be operated five days a week.

UDAN, which was launched on 27 April, is slated to create additional 100 airports over the next 2-3 years, Sinha said while speaking at the Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII) annual session 2017 themed 'Future of Globalisation: Can India Lead?' in Delhi.

Under the regional connectivity scheme, or UDAN, airlines operating on routes allotted to them must offer 50 per cent of the total number of seats on a flight to passengers at the rate of Rs2,500 per hour.

The flight from Delhi can take 35 passengers, while the one from Shimla can accommodate only 15, because of factors such as the runway length, temperature and altitude at the Jabarhatti airport.

With half the total aircraft capacity set aside under the UDAN scheme, 24 seats from Delhi and 15 seats from Shimla are available at the discounted fare of Rs2,036, inclusive of taxes.

Alliance Air is reported to have sought financial assistance of about Rs1.42 lakh (or Rs5 crore per year) for every return flight on this route from the Himachal Pradesh government to offset losses because of the limited number of passengers on the flight.

According to the minister, the UDAN scheme has market friendly features such as removal of airport and navigation charges, reduction in ATF (air turbine fuel) taxes and routes exclusivity for three years, which would incentivise air passenger carriers.

The minister said that he is working with aircraft lessors to reduce the risk premium.