Helicopter services under the regional connectivity scheme will be permitted only for Jammu and Kashmir, the north-eastern states, Andaman and Nicobar as well as Lakshwadeep islands, the government said today. These areas have been identified as “high priority” and the government is likely to ease norms for bidding in order to improve air connectivity in these parts of the country. The first round of bidding for selected routes under the RCS scheme was held in March and a total of 128 routes were awarded to five airline operators. The next round of bidding is likely to to be held later this month.
The scheme, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), aims at improving air connectivity for tier-2 and tier-3 cities as well making flying affordable for the masses by capping air fares at Rs 2,500 km for an hour-long flight in a fixed-wing aircraft and for a thirty-minute journey in a helicopter.
“Operations under the scheme are permitted through fixed wing aircraft (including sea planes) and helicopters, provided that operations through the helicopters are permitted only among the states of Jammu and Kashmir, north eastern region, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshwadeep Islands,” minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said in response to a question in Rajya Sabha.
Airlines and helicopter operators are required to set aside 50 per cent of their seating capacity at discounted rates under the RCS, in exchange for which they are given a subsidy or a viability gap funding by the government. Helicopters with a seating capacity of five are required to offer all seats at discounted rates, according to the rules finalised by the government.
However, in order to encourage operators to bid for these high priority areas the government is likely to revise a few parameters such as the lower limit of seats to be offered under the scheme, minimum distance between two airports as well as more frequencies.