India eyeing to improve air connectivity

Hyderabad: India has been aiming to improve regional connectivity by ensuring that the non-metros are connected. In a series of steps that had been taken in this direction, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had allocated Rs 1,014.09 crore for regional air connectivity scheme or UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), marking a steep increase from Rs 200.11 crore that was allocated for the financial year (2017- 18).

Many regional players and national air carriers have bid for routes under UDAN and continue to see financial viability in the model.

Hyderabad-based Turbo Megha Airways that operates its airline business under the brand TruJet has been awarded new routes under the scheme connecting Ahmedabad to Kandla, Porbandar, Keshod, Jaisalmer, Nashik and Jalgaon besides connecting Guwahati to Burnpur, Coochbehar, Tezu and Rupsi. The company believes that this will help connect unserved/underserved cities to the metropolitans.

Trujet is already connecting Nanded, Cuddapah, Mysore and Vidyanagar, under the UDAN scheme. The airline has recently inducted the fifth ATR 72-600 aircraft to its fleet and will expand both its fleet and destinations eventually. The new aircraft is configured with 70 seats and equipped with the new Armonia cabin, featuring the most modern standards for passenger comfort.

This ATR 72-600 will join the current airline fleet of four ATR 72s, thus supporting Trujet’ s aim of further regional expansion in India. The airline started its operations with ATR aircraft in July 2015. With a fleet of ATR-72 aircraft, TruJet currently operates to 12 stations including Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Chennai, Goa, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada, Nanded, Cuddapah, Mysore, Vidyanagar, Mumbai and Tirupati. Trujet is the only airline to operate on Hyderabad-Aurangabad, Mumbai-Nanded, Mysore- Chennai, Chennai-Cuddapah, Hyderabad- Nanded, Hyderabad-Bellary, and Hyderabad-Cuddapah routes.

SpiceJet had also been actively looking to serve the smaller cities under the UDAN scheme. The low-cost carrier is awarded 17 proposals and 20 new sectors under the second round of bidding for the UDAN.

Out of these 20, 15 will cater to unserved markets of Kannur (Kerala), Darbhanga (Bihar), Ozar (Nashik), Pakyong (Sikkim), Kishangarh (Rajasthan), Lilabari (Assam), Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu), Bokaro(Jharkhand) and Solapur (Maharashtra) whereas five will be for underserved markets of Hubli (Karnataka) and Jaisalmer (Rajasthan).

SpiceJet with its fleet of 22 Bombardier Q400 aircraft, which have a seating capacity of 78, is India’s largest regional player. The airline placed an order for 50 Q400s last year, deliveries for which will begin later this year.

Last year, SpiceJet was awarded six proposals under the first phase of the UDAN scheme and was the only participating airline that did not seek viable gap funding from the government. SpiceJet has launched operations on four UDAN routes that include Mumbai-Kandla, Mumbai-Porbandar, Hyderabad-Puducherry and Jaipur-Jaisalmer.

SpiceJet announced 20 new non-stop flights on domestic routes starting from February 11, 2018 which will improve connectivity.

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