Friday, September 11, 2020

UDAN 4.0: Focus on remote area link-up with smaller aircraft in NE

Guwahati: After the UDAN scheme of the ministry of civil aviation failed to take off thrice in the past in the northeast, the Union government is eyeing another attempt with airlines going for smaller aircraft like Dornier, which have smaller seating capacities of 19 to 42 passengers.

Sources in the ministry said since the passenger load would be less, it could be economically more viable this time. Officials at the Airports Authority of India said connecting the remote and distant locations of NE with metros would come under focus when the auction of airline routes under UDAN 4.0 commences.

But professionals associated with the aviation sector have doubts about the success of short routes that can easily be covered through roadways at much cheaper rates. “Smaller flights would be the future of northeast. In the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) under UDAN Phase-I, II and III, routes were awarded to airlines but somehow they didn’t succeed and the connection was suspended in most of the routes,” said the regional executive director (officiating) of AAI, JT Radhakrishna, on Thursday.

Earlier, ATR-72 or Bombardier Q-400 were preferred in the RCS routes by the airlines as they were smaller in size compared to A-320 or B-737 aircraft and had 72 to 80 passenger capacity. Even then, airlines had to suspend their services, mainly due to passenger payload and poor response.

Radhakrishna said under UDAN 4.0 the northeast is under focus as of the 70 routes finalized by the government, 40 have been given to the region. This, he said, will help in developing intra-regional connectivity. Half of the seats in the aircraft will be sold as per the subsidized rates fixed by the government on a particular route under the scheme.

“Connectivity from remote locations to main cities is the goal of RCS flights, as there are numerous underserved, unserved air strips and airports in the country which can be developed through this scheme. Some heliports are also to be developed and connected in this scheme, funds for which will be reimbursed by the ministry,” he added.
10/09/20 Kangkan Kalita/Times of India
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