New Delhi: Giving flight to its 'Udan' policy for regional connectivity, the government on Thursday awarded contracts to five companies to operate flight services on 128 routes that will connect 70 airports, most of them either used partially or unused.
The airports are spread across the country, 24 in the western region, 17 in northern region, 11 in southern region, 12 in eastern region and six in north eastern region.
"In the first round, about 70-72 airports will see scheduled flights. It will ensure more people fly," said Ashok Gajapati Raju, Civil Aviation Minister, at an event held to issue Letter of Awards to five airline companies to operate flights under the first phase of the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RSC).
The seating capacity of airlines under the scheme will range from 19 to 78, and 50 per cent of the seats in every flight will have a fare cap of Rs 2,500 per seat per hour.
The airline companies chosen are Airline Allied Services Limited, Spicejet Limited, Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited, Air Deccan and Air Odisha Private Limited.
Under the proposal, 27 served airports, 12 underserved airports and 31 unserved airports will be connected.
While first flight under the scheme is going to take off in April, all scheduled flights in the first phase will be operational by September.
The scheme is known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik), which is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy.
Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, who was also present in the event, said the aviation markets at international and national level were increasing rapidly.
"Now, the UDAN scheme will stimulate regional aviation market, which will serve the underserved and unserved airports" Sinha said.
He added that the government had tried to keep the fare as affordable as possible by keeping ATS (Air Traffic Services) charges low, removing airport charges and taking the VGF (Viability Gap Funding) down to modest level.
The government has decided to give VGF of Rs 205 crore to the selected airline companies under the scheme.
Some of the routes connect major cities with small towns such as Delhi-Bhatinda, Delhi-Shimla, Agra-Jaipur, Mumbai- Nanded, Kolkata-Rourkela, Ahmedabad-Mundra, Chennai-Mysore. There are routes that connect small towns with each other such as Pantnagar-Dehradun, Salem-Puducherry, Shilong-Slicher.