Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Just 2 of 13 flights functional, Udaan crash-lands in northeast

Guwahati: The Centre’s ambitious Udaan scheme, meant to let common people fly at subsidised fares, has failed to deliver in the northeast, which needed it the most to enhance air connectivity, given the difficult terrain in the region.

Of the 13 flights started in 2018 to connect some of the interior parts of northeast with key destinations like Kolkata and Guwahati, only two remain operational. The first flight under the international version of Udaan that was launched between Guwahati and Dhaka under the International Air Connectivity Scheme (IACS) on July 1 is also on hold because of lack of adequate number of passengers.

Pulling out of private airlines from Udaan in the northeast has hit air connectivity between Tezpur (Assam) and Kolkata, Pakyong (Sikkim) and Kolkata, Pakyong and Guwahati, Lilabari (Assam) and Kolkata, and Lilabari and Guwahati.

The only two routes that have sustained in the northeast under Udaan to date are between Shillong and Kolkata and Jorhat and Kolkata.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI), which has been entrusted with the task of building necessary infrastructure for the successful operation of Udaan, has been caught off guard following the withdrawal of the “ambitious” airlines companies from most of the routes that got through the bidding process held under the Union ministry of civil aviation to give the commoners wings to fly.

AAI’s regional executive director Sanjeev Jindal said, “The routes in which the airlines have stopped operation under Udaan need to be handed over to established airlines companies, which can sustain operations in the northeast. They must not see aviation solely from the commercial aspect, but as a social sector where connectivity has to be improved for the overall development of a region that has immense potential for growth. The governments there have to financially assist them to recover losses under Udaan.”

Jindal said while popular domestic routes in the country have about 98% seat occupancy, this has not been the case in the northeast, where some of the least happening airports have got air connectivity boost under Udaan.
19/11/19 Kangkan Kalita/Times of India
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