Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday flagged off from Shimla the first Rs 2,500-an-hour flight introduced as part of the government's UDAN scheme, which plans to make air travel cheaper and accessible to middle class families. The initiative also aims to enhance regional air connectivity.
The first flight under the scheme was flagged off between Shimla and Delhi. Air India subsidiary Alliance Air, which will operate the flight, has fixed the fare at Rs 2,036.
Flagging of the first flight, the Prime Minister underscored the need to keep air fares within the reach of the middle class and expressed hope that UDAN will help boost tourism in the country.
But what exactly is UDAN? Read on to know all about the Civil Aviation Ministry’s flagship scheme.
What is UDAN?
The Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme was announced by the civil aviation ministry in October 2016. The scheme is aimed at boosting regional air connectivity between Tier II and Tier III cities and will work towards fulfilling the PM’s promise of making air travel affordable for the middle and lower middle class families of the country.
The scheme will be in operation for a period of 10 years.
To make air travel accessible to citizens in regionally important areas, the ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik’ RCS was launched in October, 2016.— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 26, 2017
UDAN Takes Flight
Prime Minister Modi launched the first UDAN flight at 11:15 am in Shimla and simultaneously flagged off the two other inaugural UDAN flights on the Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors through video conferencing.
Speaking at the launch, he said:
My dream was to see a person who wears a hawai chappal to fly on a hawai jahaz (aeroplane)... If the middle class of our country gets a chance they would change the image as well as the future of the nation. The lives of the middle class will transform.
Fare Capped at 2.5K
The UDAN scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), which was released on 15 June 2016. Under UDAN, the fare for a one-hour journey of approximately 500 km has been capped at Rs 2,500 for aeroplane. The same fare applies to a 30-minute journey on a helicopter.
128 Routes, 70 Airports Covered Under UDAN
On 30 March 2017, the central government awarded contracts to five companies under the scheme to operate flight services on 128 routes connecting 70 airports.
The airports are spread across the country: 24 in the western region, 17 in the northern region, 11 in the southern region, 12 in the eastern region and six in the north-east.
UDAN makes air travel accessible to a wider range of citizens & enhances connectivity with many more airports across India. pic.twitter.com/X2wVIq6130— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 27, 2017
Airlines Under UDAN
The airline chosen for the scheme are Allied Services (Alliance Air), SpiceJet, Turbo Megha Airways, Air Deccan and Air Odisha.
The seating capacity of aircraft under the scheme will range from 19 to 78, and 50 percent of the seats in every flight will have a fare cap of Rs 2,500 per seat per hour.
What’s in it For the Airlines?
Apart from the obvious draw of increasing their customer base and expanding their connectivity, the central government is expected to extend perks to the participating airlines by providing them concessions in the form of reduced excise duty and service tax.
The state governments are also expected to lower the VAT (value added tax) on ATF (air turbine fuel) to one percent or less for these airlines, while electricity, water and other utilities would be provided at concessional rates to them.
Further, airport operators will not impose landing and parking charges and terminal navigation landing fees. They will also offer discounts to the airlines on route navigation facility charges.
(With inputs from IANS.)