Thursday, May 04, 2017

UDAN will make air travel affordable for many, but not the poor

The average Indian is unlikely to be able to afford a Rs 2,500 flight -- 13.8 times the monthly spending on travel (Rs 180) in 2011-2012 -- under the governments new "Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik" (UDAN) programme.

Launched on April 27, UDAN will feature flights to underserved smaller towns in which a certain number of seats will be subsidized -- Rs 2,500 for an hour-long flight, and fares going up pro-rata for longer distances. For instance, a subsidised Shimla-Delhi ticket for June 1 is currently priced at Rs 2,036, and will be operated by Alliance Air, an Air India subsidiary.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoted this as an opportunity for more people, especially the "common man", to access air travel. "Why should air services be only for the elite in this country? I told my officials that I want people wearing hawai chappals [inexpensive flip-flops] to be taking flights," he said at the launch.

But even at these low prices, a considerable part of the population is unlikely to use air services as claimed by the Prime Minister.

Although India has seen a massive decline in poverty over the last two decades, 21.9 per cent of its population still lives below the poverty line of Rs 816 per person per month in rural areas, and Rs 1,000 per capita per month in urban areas, according to government data.
03/05/17 Shreya Shah/The Weekend Leader