Government’s ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), which aims to provide air travel to the common man at fares comparable with long distance train fares, may be in jeopardy even before taking off with Mumbai, one of India’s biggest airports, saying there are not enough slots for regional carriers under the scheme.
Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) has expressed its inability to provide enough slots to regional carriers under government’s UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) scheme, citing high traffic, ETNow reported attributing to unidentified sources. The Civil Aviation Ministry had requested 20 slots at the Mumbai Airport and 24 slots at the Delhi Airport for operations of flights under UDAN. Currently, Mumbai Airport operates with a single runway and handles nearly 900 arrivals and departures a day while Delhi Airport handles nearly 1200 aircraft movements per day with three runways. Now, Delhi Airport’s reply on providing slots to regional carriers will be keenly watched given that it is operating at peak capacity.
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Earlier, Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had awarded 128 routes to five operators under UDAN wherein government will provide incentives to air carriers for operating regional flights with fares capped at Rs 2500 per hour. “UDAN network will cover the whole country, giving a major economic boost to hinterland areas,” the minister had said. The scheme has received 43 initial proposals from 11 bidders covering RCS routes and 92 airports. Out of these aerodromes, 12 are under-served and 50 are unserved. He had added that UDAN will have a positive effect on the economy, in terms of employment and investment.
The 11 airlines that had submitted bids under the scheme included Air India, SpiceJet, Air Deccan and TruJet, which have small aircraft which are more suitable for operating regional flights. Others bids were mostly unscheduled and chartered flight operators.
At the launch of UDAN, minister of state for aviation, Jayant Sinha had said “India launched the Regional Connectivity Scheme to get more people flying in what is already the world’s fastest-growing aviation market. Under the scheme, the government has capped fares and is offering incentives to attract airlines to fly less traversed routes. The government will also provide Rs 2.05 billion for financial support to boost airline travel between smaller cities.”
However, SpiceJet, which had submitted bids for flights originating from Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, has not sought any government subsidies that are being offered under UDAN, as per a report by CNBC TV18.