Junior civil aviation minister Jayant Sinha told Rajya Sabha that 6 routes awarded under UDAN had been cancelled due to ‘non-performance’ or ‘poor performance’.
New Delhi: The NDA government’s flagship civil aviation scheme, Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), has run into some turbulence in the eastern part of the country, as regional airline companies such as Air Deccan and Air Odisha have failed to commence operations under this umbrella.
Staff shortage, technical issues with aircraft and high maintenance cost amid severe cost pressures have led to the grounding of two new routes opened under UDAN — from Jamshedpur (operated by Air Deccan) and Jharsuguda (operated by Air Odisha).
Air Deccan, India’s first low-cost carrier, revived in 2017 by its founder Captain G.R. Gopinath, was slated to commence operations between Kolkata and Jamshedpur by 30 September.
Air Odisha, meanwhile, was awarded the rights to operate flights between Jharsuguda and Bhubaneswar. It was also slated to connect Jharsuguda with Ranchi and Raipur. The Jharsuguda airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.
Jayant Sinha, the Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, acknowledged these issues in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. He stated that six routes awarded to Air Deccan and Air Odisha in the first round of UDAN auctions had been cancelled due to “non-performance” or “poor performance”.
In the last six months, more than 70 per cent of the flights have been cancelled by the two carriers. The Airports Authority of India (AAI), in fact, cancelled the operating licences of Air Deccan and Air Odisha for various routes due to their failure in operating regular flights on their assigned routes.
“While the bigger airlines which ply on multiple routes can take the hit due to overall volume, the smaller regional airlines face severe problems. Viability becomes an issue, and they get grounded,” an industry analyst told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
“This even forces the customers to look for options which were existent before flight connectivity under UDAN,” the analyst said.
The government introduced the Regional Connectivity Scheme under the UDAN name on 21 October 2016 to boost regional connectivity while making air travel affordable. Under the scheme, airlines are encouraged to fly to underserved airports at low fares, the maximum being Rs 2,500 per hour of flying. The carriers also receive subsidy from the government.
The government had recently decided to extend the UDAN scheme to international air travel as well.