Taking note of long delays, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has now given a month’s time to Air Deccan and Air Odisha to start operations on routes bagged by them in the first round of bidding under the regional air connectivity scheme, according to officials. State-owned AAI is the nodal agency for the scheme — UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) — which seeks to connect unserved and under-served airports as well as make flying more affordable.
Under the first round of UDAN, as many as 70 airports, including 31 unserved and 12 under-served ones, were to be connected. Five airlines, including Air Deccan and Air Odisha, won bids to operate UDAN flights on 128 routes. While winners of the first round were announced in March last year, many routes are yet to be operational on account of multiple factors, including certain airports yet to be fit for operations and some airlines not being fully ready.
Against this backdrop, officials said the AAI has served notices to Air Deccan and Air Odisha asking them to commence operations on the routes awarded to them in a month’s time. AAI Chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra said that around 18-19 airports are already operational under UDAN and more would be coming up.
“Unfortunately, promoters of two airlines who came were not in a position to start it ( services on routes bagged by them) despite several notices to them in the past… A final notice is being sent to them now to start operations within a month,” he told PTI. However, Mohapatra did not take names of the two airlines. Another official in the know said notices have been served to Air Deccan and Air Odisha. The two carriers bagged as many as 84 routes under the first round of UDAN but have so far started operations in less than 10 of them.
Air Deccan and Air Odisha bagged 34 and 50 routes, respectively. Besides, the two airlines, SpiceJet, Alliance Air and Turbo Megha Airways had won bids. Nearly a year after emerging winners, so far Air Deccan and Air Odisha have started flights on three routes each. Air Deccan started operations in December while Air Odisha took to the skies in February.
Among others, airlines participating in UDAN are eligible for viability gap funding and the amount is shared between the central government and the state government concerned. On concerns expressed about many airports not being ready for operations, Mohapatra said the airlines can at least start operations from aerodromes that are ready.
“We are not claiming that all airports are ready as it is a demand-driven scheme, under which only one (the airline) that has won the bid decides to fly… (then only) we develop the airport (concerned),” he noted.