Tourist destinations like Hampi in Karnataka, Gangtok in Sikkim, Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh are now easily accessible since the Centre launched its flagship RCS scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik).
Planning your next vacation just became easier and cheaper! Fly to popular tourists heartlands like Hampi, Gangtok and Shimla as UDAN flights are here to take you across miles. According to a recent IE report, tourist destinations like Hampi in Karnataka, Gangtok in Sikkim, Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh are easily accessible since the Centre launched its flagship regional air connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik). In an attempt to include the unserved and underserved airports on the country’s aviation map, UDAN scheme has diversified its wings to strengthen the connectivity. New airline services have started in over 120 air routes to 37 unserved and underserved airports, with nearly 11 lakh passengers flying in the first 20 months of the scheme.
- Hampi in Karnataka:
According to the report, in its list of ‘52 Places to go in 2019’, the New York Times placed the archaeological centre, Hampi at number two saying that the UNESCO World Heritage site has been very difficult to reach. However, TruJet recently began daily direct flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore to Ballari, which is a 25-mile drive from Hampi.’ Ballari, which is 311 km from Bengaluru, is connected by the Vidyanagar airport, was classified as an underserved airport under the UDAN scheme.
On September 21, 2017, TruJet started its flight from Hyderabad to Vidyanagar, while its flight connecting to the city of Bengaluru started on March 1, 2018. According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) data for March 2018, the Bengaluru-Vidyanagar-Bengaluru route saw around 2,820 passengers. However, only 60 people flew the same route, a month before TruJet started flying under UDAN. Between March-November 2018, a total of 28,677 passengers flew on the route. While not all the passengers may have taken the UDAN flights, the data shows the demand potential for seamless air connectivity at tourist spots in India.
- Gangtok in Sikkim:
Through Pakyong, an easier route to the state of Sikkim was opened for tourists. In October 2018, SpiceJet connected Pakyong to Kolkata and Guwahati. Earlier, to reach Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, tourists had to fly to Bagdogra which is well-connected to several airports in the country, followed by a 5-6 hour road journey. The Kolkata-Pakyong-Kolkata route, over which SpiceJet operates the 78-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft on a daily basis, started on October 4 and saw around 4,790 passengers between October-November last year, according to the DGCA data.
- Shimla in Himachal Pradesh:
Shimla, capital of Himachal Pradesh is also situated across a difficult terrain, which the UDAN scheme has now connected for travel convenience. Before the UDAN scheme, Shimla was operational until 2012 and the sole aircraft carrier to fly there was Kingfisher Airlines, which is now dysfunctional. Both the airline as well as the airport closed operations at around the same time. However in April 2017, Shimla became the first airport to be connected under the UDAN regional connectivity scheme.
According to the data from the Airports Authority of India, the Delhi-Shimla-Delhi route saw a total of 14,041 passengers on UDAN flights operated by state-owned Alliance Air between April 27, 2017, and September 23, 2018. Alliance Air, is a subsidiary of Air India and operates four flights a week from Delhi to Shimla.
- Pantnagar and Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand :
Other locations in difficult mountainous regions include Pantnagar and Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, which were connected under the UDAN scheme to Dehradun. According to the Uttarakhand government data, Pithoragarh district saw around 2,43,688 tourists visiting the district, while the Uddham Singh Nagar district (where Pantnagar is situated) saw 1,40,794 tourists in 2017. Pithoragarh was connected to Dehradun and Pantnagar by the helicopter operator Heritage Aviation on January 17, while Alliance Air started the Dehradun-Pantnagar route on January 4.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has been focusing on expanding UDAN scheme to boost India’s tourism sector by connecting popular tourist spots of India by affordable flights, for which it is working with the tourism ministry. A senior Aviation Ministry official was quoted saying that the industry has been asked to develop a business model that can attract the airlines to connect such destinations on a regular basis.