Shimla: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said dozens of new airports in the country will be connected by flights over the next one year under the regional connectivity Udan scheme.
Modi, who was flagging off the first flight from Shimla to Delhi at the Shimla airport on Thursday, said about 70 such airports may come to life in the next one year.
“Earlier aviation was considered to be the domain of a select few. That has changed now,” Modi said, “The lives of the middle class are being transformed and their aspirations are increasing. Given the right chance, they can do wonders.”
Currently, it takes 10 hours to reach Shimla from Delhi, which will be reduced to about an hour with Air India’s new flight.
The prime minister said he told the aviation ministry that he wants to see people who wear hawai chapal in hawai yatra, when they sought his views to frame an aviation policy last year.
“We had the opportunity to frame a civil aviation policy, which caters to aspirations of the people of India.Tier-II and Tier-III cities are becoming growth engines. If aviation connectivity is enhanced in these places, it will be beneficial.The aviation sector in India is filled with opportunities,” he said.
Udan is short for Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik, which loosely translates as “let the common man fly”. The regional connectivity scheme is intended to connect small towns by air.
Flights from Delhi will depart five times a week at 6.10am, while from Shimla, they will start at 7.45am.
“The maximum load factor from Shimla to Delhi will be 15, while from Delhi, it will be 35. The fare for 24 seats will be Rs2,036. The VGF per seat will be around Rs3,340. This will be followed for next 3 years,” Air India said in a statement.
The airline cannot fly at full capacity on its 70-seater ATR airplane because of payload restrictions related to the short Shimla airfield. This means while half the seats will be sold cheap on first-come-first-serve basis, the prices for the remaining seats will be very steep.
The Air India website showed tickets for the rest of the seats from Rs13,000 to Rs19,000 one-way. This means if you buy a ticket late, it could cost you up to Rs26,000 to Rs38,000 for a return economy airfare. There are no business class seats on this plane.
The regional aviation scheme, which will be in operation for 10 years, envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served cities and towns by reviving existing airstrips and airports. This would be achieved by providing financial stimulus in the form of central and state government concessions, as well as viability gap funding for interested airlines to kick off operations while ensuring passenger fares are kept affordable.
The fare for a one-hour journey of about 500km on a fixed wing aircraft or a 30-minute journey on a helicopter will be capped at Rs2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different lengths and duration.
To reduce the cost of operations, the Centre will provide concessions in the form of reduced excise on value-added tax (VAT), service tax and flexibility in code sharing at airports under the regional connectivity scheme.
State governments would have to lower VAT on jet fuel to 1% or less, besides providing security and fire services free of cost, and electricity, water and other utilities at substantially concessional rates. Landing and parking charges and terminal navigation landing charges will not be imposed by the airport operator.
Modi, who arrived in Indian Air Force helicopters, also addressed a rally in Shimla. Himachal Pradesh is set to go to polls soon. He also flagged off flights from Nanded, Maharashtra, and Kuddapa through video conferencing from Shimla.