Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Seaplane To Make A Splash Again, Guj Govt Floats Tender

Ahmedabad: The country’s maiden and much-hyped seaplane service, grounded for a year now, is expected to take off again with the state government coming up with a brand new proposal. The seaplane that made its first flight in October 2020 and operated by SpiceJet has been lying in Maldives for maintenance for about a year now.

The Gujarat government has now invited companies afresh to provide seaplane services. It has floated a tender for the service from Sabarmati riverfront to Statue of Unity – a 45-minute 

journey – and invited national and international parties. 

The last date for submitting the online bid is January 11, 2022.

Two weeks ago, the Central government informed the Parliament that the service was stopped by the operator from April 11, 2021 citing operational reasons. The fresh service too will be launched under the UDAN scheme. 

The seaplane service was initially launched in October 2020 with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a bid to boost tourism. 

The 19-seater plane with a capacity to accommodate 12 passengers made some to and fro trips and before people could begin to enjoy the service, it developed a technical snag. Back then, the tickets were priced at Rs 4,800 per passenger.

The service was suspended for 15 days in November and the seaplane sent to Maldives for maintenance. Back then, Spice Shuttle, a fully owned subsidiary of SpiceJet, had said in a statement that the operation had been suspended because of mandatory plane maintenance.

It did come back only to be sent again for maintenance early this year and since then it has been lying in Male, said sources.

A senior state aviation department official told Mirror that the government did not receive any positive response from the operator. “The company gave different reasons each time when confronted by the government. At one time it said the project was not affordable and at the other it gave either Covid or a technical reason for unavailability of the plane,” he said.

He said the service is slated to resume again but with a different operator. This will require the approval of the Director General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Defence and Airport Authority of India. Since the process is lengthy it will take some time, said sources.

Director of Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Ltd (GUJSAIL) Capt Ajay Chauhan said the state government is planning to resume seaplane services and offers have been invited from national and international aviation companies. “I cannot comment any further on the matter,” he added.

28/12/21 Vipul Rajput/Ahmedabad Mirror

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