Making air travel affordable to all (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik), UDAN, was the vision behind this scheme unraveled by Prime Minister Modi. The Indian middle-class is brewing new dreams, new aspirations, new determination, and new confidence. Giving wings to these dreams and aspirations has been the prime enabler by the government this year.
What is UDAN?
Part of Civil Aviation Policy 2016, UDAN is a regional connectivity scheme of the Government of India. It aims to make air travel more widespread by connecting more regional routes that are otherwise not very profitable for the airlines. It is a sunset scheme hoping to fulfill its target in the next 10 years and thereafter making the aviation sector self-sustainable.
The benefits which UDAN brings
This will bring Tier two and Tier 3 cities into the country’s aviation network, making business and trade more efficient. It will also give that section of citizens a chance to travel by air, that is yet to ‘experience’ or ‘avail’ this opportunity for reasons ranging from reach to affordability. Also, primary medical supplies would be able to reach on time to the remotest corners of the country. Tourism potential of India will now be fully unlocked.
It also aims to make air travel affordable to the common man in the country. Long-distance travel fares by air have been made more affordable than even taxi fares. The time saved is another currency in hand. To make this possible, 50% of seats in all flights are capped at ₹2500 per seat for each hour of travel. Operators could seek a Viability Gap Funding apart from various concessions to enable this cheap airfare on underserved routes.
The airport infrastructure development undertaken under this scheme would benefit the remotest part of India. New airports will be developed and existing ones will be enhanced to cater to the new passenger load and flights. The target is to operationalize a cumulative total of 100 regional airports. Another aim is to expand airport capacity by 5 times to handle a billion trips a year. Apart from this, airline carriers would get the added benefit of waiving-off of the airport charges. This would save 25-30% of their operational costs.
Not just the citizens but also the aviation companies hugely benefitted from this new proposal. With new routes, new vistas opened up. Many new airlines are also joining the existing fray given the push through UDAN. A new company Flybig is basing its flight plan around UDAN. Another new entrant, Air Taxi has been allotted 11 new routes under the scheme for its three-seater-rides. How many of us have wondered to get air-taxis when stuck in traffic jams? Well, the dream has been fulfilled with UDAN. Even existing airline carriers like Spice Jet immensely benefitted from this regional route scheme and took a new flight to success with UDAN. It claimed the benefit of three-year exclusivity on new routes which helped steer its point to point connectivity model. It bagged multiple routes connecting seaports making India’s logistical network stronger than ever.
Read here: SpiceJet: In Need of Another Turnaround
With UDAN 4.0, the scheme was given a new life in 2019 end. The operation of helicopters and seaplanes has been incorporated as well. Also, the focus is back on the Northeast and island groups which need air travel more than any other part of the country. Given the lack of alternative travel modes in the region due to its hilly terrain, a push to connectivity through air-mode was a much-needed boon.
The economic benefits that come alongside
The airport development and rejuvenation will give a major boost to employment around the regions. The growth of tourism will open up new livelihood opportunities to the unexplored areas of India.
India is already the third-largest market worldwide in terms of domestic passenger traffic. Given the size of its population, it does carry the potential to become the largest. International travel might have taken a setback in these scary times, where every passing day is witnessing new COVID strains in one country or the other. But, the locked-up and bored domestic traveler does want to travel. A fillip through UDAN, can help the tourism sector grow and also help the economy bounce back at the earliest.