The government is working on a fresh regional air connectivity scheme to connect smaller cities to neighbouring countries by incentivising airlines to operate affordable flights, a civil aviation ministry official said.
“The rethink is to enable state governments to use the UDAN platform for international connectivity,” civil aviation secretary RN Choubey told a press conference at the Wings India 2018 summit on Thursday.
UDAN is an acronym for ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’ — a government initiative to put smaller towns and remote regions on the country’s aviation map by subsidising airlines for flying on select routes at a fixed fare — that can be loosely translated to ‘Let the common man fly’.
Unlike in the ongoing UDAN
scheme in which the Centre subsidises lower fares charged by the airlines, in
the international version it will be the state governments that provide
subsidies while the Centre will facilitate the bidding rounds, Choubey
“It is for the government to decide whether they will fix a fare for the routes so to speak, or whether they will allow the fares to float in the market and allow minimum subsidy to be charged,” he said. Choubey said northeastern state of Assam has taken a lead in ‘UDAN Version 2’ by allocating ₹100 crore for three years for carriers willing to participate in the scheme.
ET had reported the Assam government's plans on January 18. Choubey said the government has yet to work out details of UDAN’s international version. It would entail bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries and slots at their airports. On the proposed sale of national carrier Air India and state-run helicopter operator Pawan Hans, Choubey said the civil aviation ministry expects to receive expressions of interest (EoIs) in the next two weeks. Financial bids will be called for after that.