To improve regional air connectivity, the government today announced increasing viability gap funding for helicopter operators and allowing smaller planes, among other concessions, under the UDAN scheme. The regional connectivity scheme — UDAN — seeks to connect unserved and under-served airports as well as make flying more affordable as fares are capped at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights. Announcing the changes made to the scheme after detailed consultations with stakeholders in the past few months, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the scheme is being liberalised, especially in the sense of focusing on priority areas. In the second bidding round that started today, smaller aircraft will be allowed to operate RCS flights in priority areas, including north eastern states and Uttarakhand.
Besides, the viability gap funding for helicopters operating under the scheme will be increased. The winners of the second round of bidding under UDAN are to be announced by November-end. Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey asserted that there will be no compromise on safety and security of flights. “We find that first round (of UDAN) is more or less on track,” Raju said.
In the first round of bidding, as many as 128 routes connecting 70 unserved and under-served airports were awarded.