The minimum distance threshold could be cut to 100 kms; the government plans to hold the second round of auctions in two months
The ministry of civil aviation may allow companies to fly planes on routes of less than 150 km distance under its regional connectivity scheme or UDAAN, according to a ministry source.
As per the current policy, distance between the origin and destination airports has to be of at least 150 kms in order to get benefits under the subsidised scheme that seeks to connect unserved and under-served airports.
The regional connectivity scheme is titled ‘UDAN’ – an acronym for Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik.
The maximum distance allowed to get the benefits under the scheme is 500 kms. The flight path is declared by the Airports Authority of India.
“There is overwhelming support in reducing the distance below 150 kms. The general consensus is that it should be left to operators. If he feels he can do a better operation on a smaller distance, then he should be allowed,” the source said.
Though not decided yet, the official said the minimum distance could be made 100 kms.
Under the scheme, the government auctions selected unserved and under-served routes with the award going to the company that asks for lowest funding. The winner gets a 3-year exclusive right to operate flights on the route. Fare for half the seats in a flight is capped at Rs 2,500 for an hour of a plane journey of approximately 500 km and a 30-minute helicopter journey.
The selected airline provides 50 percent of the flight capacity – with a minimum of 9 and maximum of 40 seats for planes and a minimum of 5 and maximum of 13 seats for helicopters — under the regional connectivity scheme. The government plans to hold the second round of auctions in two months.
The official said private airlines’ UDAN flights to and from Delhi will only be allowed from terminal-2 (T2) though the airport operator had no objection to the flights operating from terminal-3 (T3).
Air India’s subsidiary Alliance Air and Spicejet are the two airlines that won routes to fly to and from Delhi under round one of the UDAN scheme.
There are currently two operating terminals at Delhi airport – terminal-1 (T1) and T3. Delhi International Airport Private Ltd, a joint venture company majority owned by GMR Infrastructure Ltd, plans to undertake expansion at T1 as traffic has outstripped the terminal’s capacity.
Low-cost airlines like SpiceJet, InteGlobe Aviation’s IndiGo and GoAir currently operate from T1. The airport operator wants two of the three airlines to shift their operations to T2 to allow it to undertake the expansion at T1. The airlines are reluctant to shift due to higher cost of operations at T2. The airlines now have a month to mutually decide if they are willing to shift the operations to T2.