Tuesday, May 02, 2017

UDAN gives wings to people from small towns, hinterland but execution of the scheme holds key

New Delhi: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first UDAN flight on Shimla-Delhi sector on 27 April, he spoke of giving wings to people living in the small towns and in India’s vast hinterland. On the same day, he also inaugurated inaugural flights under the same scheme on Kadapa – Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors. UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) is a first-of-its-kind scheme globally to stimulate regional connectivity through a market-based mechanism. Its success will be judged by how many additional Indians take to the skies in the next few years – remember, India is one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets but this growth is almost entirely concentrated in its bustling metro cities.

India has the dubious distinction of having close to 400 ghost airports which are un-served - they do not handle even a single flight. Many of these are on routes with little traffic till now. It is no wonder then that the current Indian aviation boom has largely left the hinterland and even tierII cities untouched. UDAN, if it is executed well, could end the isolation of the aam aadmi as far as air travel is concerned.
 The most significant aspect of UDAN is affordable fares. The airfare for a one-hour journey of approximately 500 km on a fixed wing aircraft, or for a 30-minute journey on a helicopter, have been capped at Rs 2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different stage lengths and flight duration. This of course comes with several caveats. For example, this price is applicable to only half the number of seats on an aircraft so the quicker you book, the better chance you will have to getting this low fare. The remaining half of the seats on the aircraft will come at the commercially applicable rate. So for Delhi-Shimla, the UDAN fare was just Rs 2036 per seat though the commercial rate for remaining seats was sometimes as high as Rs 20,000. The scheme is unique since it seeks to connect remote locations at affordable fares, where flyers can compare the roadways or rail fares and the time taken buy these two modes of transport with the UDAN flight economics to decide which suits his pocket more.
02/05/17 Sindhu Bhattacharya/First Post