Air Odisha and Air Deccan, which won the right to operate on 50 and 34 routes under the Centre’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS), respectively, have received the no-objection certificate from the civil aviation ministry, and are on track to begin operations on the RCS routes by the end of September.
“The airlines have completed two of the five processes that need to be completed with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for the issue of a licence to start a regional airline. They have also approached the authorities for importing six Beechcraft aircraft between them,” a senior civil aviation ministry official said, adding that the two airlines are jointly negotiating with the lessors for leasing of the aircraft. The airlines are learnt to have been negotiating for Beechcraft 1900D aircraft, which can seat up to 19 passengers.
Air Odisha could not be reached for a comment. Air Deccan’s GR Gopinath did not respond to a query sent by SMS.
Under the RCS, also known as UDAN, the government has stipulated that the airlines that have won the rights to operate regional flights earlier this year must start them on the awarded routes by the end of September. Failure to do so would result in the airline not being granted a licence to start air services.
Going ahead, under the scheme’s second round, the government official said that the civil aviation ministry is planning to relax the frequency norms for smaller aircraft, which would be flying to “high-priority areas” defined under the RCS. These areas would include remote areas in Northeastern states, hilly states such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, and islands.
According to the prevalent norms, the viability gap funding under the scheme will be provided to airlines flying a minimum of three and a maximum seven RCS flights per week per route with minimum 9 and maximum 40 seats per flight.
Some airlines, which are operating on, or plan to operate on, smaller aircraft, approached the ministry citing the concerns over not being able to achieve economies of scale with the seven flights per week limit. The official said that the ministry was working out the details of the new norms, as to whether the relaxation for smaller aircraft will be in terms of more flights per week or more seats per week.