Know about the Central government’s UDAN (Udega Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme? Well, this regional air connectivity scheme that has been operational on domestic routes for over a year may be extended to the international circuit in neighbouring countries.
For those of you who are unaware of the scheme, let us give you a quick rundown.
To promote air travel, the UDAN scheme caps domestic flight tariffs at Rs 2,500 per hour. The balance amount in the airfares is covered by the government as part of the subsidy. The state governments also waive airport charges and taxes on aviation turbine fuel.
The aim of the travel-subsidy scheme is to connect smaller places through air network by using underserved and unserved airports.
The government is now mulling the extension of the UDAN scheme overseas. This will connect smaller domestic centres with countries in the neighbourhood.
According to a Financial Express Report, the permits for the scheme may only be for domestic carriers and not international ones in the initial phase. Though international carriers have shown interest in the proposed scheme for overseas routes, many domestic carriers are opposing their entry into it.
Speaking to the publication, a civil aviation ministry official said, “There could be an argument for a level playing field for all airlines. But the thinking is to start with domestic airlines only. It could be domestic carriers now, and international players can join in later. We are really moving fast on international Udan, and the bidding could be held sometime in September or October.”
Currently, this scheme covers about 400 domestic routes. Looking at the positive response, private airlines like Jet Airways and IndiGo have used it to lower the costs further to get more travellers.
According to the report, the governments in Assam and Andhra Pradesh have shown interest in the scheme to fly passengers to neighbouring countries with financial support. While Assam wants Guwahati to be the connecting point to help passengers fly to ASEAN countries, Andhra Pradesh wants to connect Vijayawada to cities like Singapore and Dubai.
Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Sunil Prabhu, took to Twitter, saying, “Presently, the states of Assam and Andhra Pradesh have come forward to participate under the scheme and have identified the routes. Under the scheme, the state governments will be responsible for funding the financial benefits. The scheme envisages providing monetary support, in the form of a subsidy per seat, for the unsold seats from the number of seats as bid by the airline to make operations viable.”
He added, “With the International Air Connectivity Scheme-UDAN, we trying to make flying to international destinations more accessible to our citizens. This will help improve overall connectivity and spur trade, tourism and economic growth in the country.”
Earlier this year, private airline SpiceJet expressed interest in flying to new international routes under the UDAN model. As per the Financial Express report, currently low-lying carrier AirAsia is operating flight services to Kuala Lumpur from Bhubaneswar daily with a subsidy from the Odisha state government on a per-flight basis. They might add more routes from the state capital to Colombo in Sri Lanka and Bangkok in Thailand.
If the plan to extend the scheme on international routes sees the light of the day, it could mean cheaper air travel not just domestically but even internationally. Let’s hope it is executed at the earliest.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)