Government awards 325 regional air routes under UDAN

The government has awarded 325 routes to airlines and helicopter operators under its regional connectivity scheme (RCS) with an emphasis on enhancing flight services to hilly and remote areas, including Kargil yesterday.

Under the scheme, a total of 56 new airports and and helipads will be connected to 36 existing ones.

The routes have been awarded to 15 airlines and helicopter operators following the bidding process for second round of RCS, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), which aimed at the masses.

Major domestic players such as SpiceJet (20 routes), IndiGo (20), Jet Airways and Air India subsidiary Alliance Air are among the players who have been awarded the routes.

The government offers viability gap funding for 50 per cent of the seats set aside for being offered at discounts by airlines and all seats up to 13 passenger seats for helicopters.

The government aims to connect 41 airports and helipads in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Uttarakhand.

"Since independence we had 75 airports connected by scheduled airlines. UDAN 1 and 2 have added around 80 airports in the country. UDAN 2 has also addressed the problem of (poor air connectivity) to difficult areas," civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a media briefing.

He added that it was encouraging to see that many participants did not ask for subsidy.

"In the second round, we have given RCS routes to helicopter operators also. In all, we got 141 proposals for 502 routes (for both planes and choppers). Letters of award have been given to 90 proposals for 325 routes. Out of these, 129 routes are in a newly created category of 'priority areas' that include Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, North East, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands," The Times of India reported quoting R N Choubey, secretary, civil aviation.