SpiceJet shuns UDAN subsidies

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NEW DELHI: No-frills carrier SpiceJet will fly without subsidies to unserved airports from three of India’s biggest urban centres, helping achieve the federal goal of boosting regional aviation connectivity in a country that relies on crowded railroads and rickety roads to link its cities to the hinterland.

Among eleven airlines applying for regional flights under the plan patronised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, SpiceJet has offered to operate regional flights out of Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi without cash support from the government under the program Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik or UDAN, according to two government officials.

It assumes grassroots adoption of aviation as a transportation medium and offers carriers cash subsidies for selling up to 40 seats at Rs. 2,500 for each hour of flight.

“SpiceJet would earmark 20 out of 70 seats as regional seats on flights operated to these destinations. Of the 20 seats, 10 seats would be sold at Rs. 2,500/ hour of flight. Barring these ten, the rest would be sold at market rates,” said an aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified. An email sent to SpiceJet did not elicit any response until the report went to print.

All other airlines have opted for subsidies under the plan that offers the carrier cash. The regional connectivity program will also witness the return to commercial aviation by G R Gopinath, considered the father of low-cost flying in the country. Deccan Aviation, owned by Gopinath, has applied for flights in the Northeastern states.

About 11 airlines, including AI, have bid to connect 43 regional airports in the first phase.