On a day when the government announced the final contours of the ambitious regional connectivity scheme, SpiceJet chief Ajay Singh today said the government could look at other ways to fund it rather than impose “more of a tax on consumers”.
Visibily unhappy at the decision to charge a “very small levy” towards creating the Regional Connectivity Fund (RCF), he also said the government can even finance the same from its own budget.
“When you build a railway station it is not that you start penalising passengers for that railway station. So, when you launch a scheme of this sort, perhaps the government needs to fund it from its budget instead of imposing more of a tax on consumers.
“So, we oppose it from the perspective that surely there could be other ways to fund the scheme which is nationally so important,” Singh, who is the airline’s Chairman and Managing Director, said soon after the final scheme was announced.
Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said the levy would be “very small”. The exact quantum of levy to be charged would be decided in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Singh emphasised that the scheme overall is a welcome move.
“It is something that needs to be done and there is a lot of growth coming from Tier II and III towns. It is only right that people from small towns start to fly. There are some issues in the scheme which we have raised with the government and we hope those can be resolved,” he noted.
According to Singh, other issues include availability of slots at airports and lack of clarity on whether concessions would be extended to both small as well as large aerodromes.
When asked whether SpiceJet would operate flights under the scheme, Singh said that first the routes have to be economically viable.
“We have to see that we have to make money by doing some of these routes. Aircraft will be made available if they are economically viable. We will see. There is time to study this (scheme),” he told reporters here.
For UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik), the Civil Aviation Ministry would be imposing a levy on every flight departures on major routes. The proceeds would be utilised for RCF, which in turn would be used for extending viability gap funding to the operators participating in the scheme.
UDAN is open for those operating fixed-wing aircraft as well as helicopters.