To make the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) more viable for airlines, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has decided to make some significant changes for the second round of bidding. MoCA has chosen to emphasise on increasing connectivity in the “priority areas” — J&K, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, the North-East, and Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands — and has increased the viability gap funding (VGF) for helicopter operators under the scheme.
In the second round of the bidding which started from Thursday, airlines would be able to bid for commercially viable existing routes under the scheme if a no-objection certificate (NOC) can be obtained from the existing operator. Also, to provide more flexibility to the selected airline, operators in maximum number of flights with VGF has been increased for 14 priority areas. The operator subsequently can also increase the number of flights according to their convenience.
“We have seen that significant capacity has been added by IndiGo and SpiceJet before the round two bidding. Though the first round of bidding has been successful, our main thrust will be on the priority areas and we think helicopters will help us connect these places to a great extent,” said Jayant Sinha, minister of state (MoS) for civil aviation.
As some of the airports in the ‘priority area’ states need major rebuilding work, the ministry has decided to encourage more helicopter operators to participate in the upcoming bidding process. VGF caps for helicopters have been increased and 10% of the total funds in the regional connectivity fund will be earmarked for helicopter operations. Any helicopter with a capacity of 13 passengers can be considered for the scheme. Another change considered by the MoCA officials is to allow flights with a stage length less than 150 km between the two airports. Both SpiceJet and IndiGo have ordered 50 ATR and Q4 bombardier aircraft to operate on the RCS routes and IndiGo is expected to participate in the second round of bidding.
(With FE inputs)