India invites bids for international Udan flights

NEW DELHI: The government of India has invited proposals from interested air operators for the international version of its ‘Udan’ (Ude Desk Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme as it seeks to enhance air connectivity from India to select overseas destinations.

This is despite the domestic format of the scheme failing to yield desired results with almost half of the routes approved in the first phase of the bidding for the scheme still to be launched.

National airports operator AAI, which has been mandated to implement the international version of the Udan scheme, has invited “e-proposals (bids) from international bidders for selection of airlines under the International Air Connectivity Scheme, IACS Udan,” according to a notice in a leading English daily.

The government, in its bid to make flying more affordable for masses, had in October 2016 announced the Udan scheme with airfares capped at Rs 2,500 for a one-hour journey through subsidised ticket rates and to provide air connectivity to smaller towns.

In the subsequent developments, five airlines were mandated to fly on 128 regional routes in the first phase of the bidding in March 2017, and 15 airlines on 325 regional routes, including those having chopper operations, in the second phase in January this year.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is also the implementing agency for the domestic format of the regional connectivity scheme.

The bids could be submitted to the AAI by 22 November, according to the notice inviting e-proposals.

The AAI has invited the bids on behalf of the civil aviation ministry and the Assam government, as per the notice.

The central government had in August unveiled a draft scheme for extending the UDAN scheme to international circuits, with state governments identifying routes for the operations.

The draft International Air Connectivity (IAC) scheme envisages to increase the international ticketing to 20 crore by 2027.

As per the draft, the scheme is to be made operational only for states which demonstrate their commitment to implement and provide the requisite support for promoting operations under the scheme.

The BJP-ruled Assam had last year offered to provide Rs 100 crore as viability gap funding towards extension of the scheme for international air connectivity from the state capital Guwahati.

According to the draft scheme, state governments will identify the routes to be connected, and airline operators will assess demand on the identified routes and submit proposals for providing connectivity.

Operations under the scheme will be permitted through fixed-wing aircraft only with more than 70 seats.

The scheme has proposed to set up an International Air Connectivity Fund (IACF) — dedicated for providing subsidy support under the scheme. It will be created through the contributions of state governments.

Source: Press Trust of India

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