UDAN is a regional airport development scheme by the government of India to improve air connectivity. Read here to know more about the scheme.
Ministry of Civil Aviation’s flagship program Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) has completed 5 years of success since the launch of its first flight by the Prime Minister on 27th April 2017.
The UDAN scheme was initiated on 21st October 2016 to fulfill the aspirations of the common citizen by following the vision of ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’, with enhanced aviation infrastructure and air connectivity in tier II and tier III cities.
RCS-UDAN was awarded Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration under Innovation Category for the year 2020.
Republic Day Tableau for 26th January 2022 on UDAN was adjudged as the Best Tableau by the Ministry of Defence.
Performance assessment of UDAN
In the last five years, UDAN has significantly increased the regional air connectivity in the country.
- There were 74 operational airports in 2014 and because of the UDAN scheme, this number has increased to 141 now.
- 68 underserved/unserved destinations which include 58 Airports, 8 Heliports & 2 Water Aerodromes have been connected under the scheme.
- With 425 new routes initiated under the scheme, it has provided air connectivity to more than 29 States/ UTs across the length and breadth of the country.
- More than one crore passengers have availed the benefits of this scheme as on 4th August 2022.
- The scheme has also provided a much-needed platform for the regional carriers to scale up their operations.
220 destinations (airports/heliports/water aerodromes) under UDAN are targeted to be completed by 2026 with 1000 routes to provide air connectivity to unconnected destinations in the country.
Under the scheme, 954 routes have already been awarded to connect 156 airports.
RCS-UDAN was formulated based on the review of The National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2016.
It was planned to remain in force for 10 years.
It has a self-financing mechanism with the development of the Regional Connectivity Fund (RCF).
Under this Scheme, RCF was created, which funds the VGF (viability gap funding) requirements of the scheme through a levy on certain domestic flights. This way, funds generated from the sector themselves stimulate the growth and development of the sector.
UDAN created a framework based on the need and led to the formulation of:
- Lifeline UDAN (for transportation of medical cargo during a pandemic).
- Krishi UDAN (value realization of agriculture products especially in Northeastern Region and tribal districts).
- International UDAN routes for Northeastern Region to explore International Connectivity from/to Guwahati and Imphal.
- Lifeline UDAN initiative commenced in March 2020 during the COVID-19 period.
- It helped to operate 588 flights transporting almost 1000 Tonnes of voluminous cargo and essential medical services to various parts of the country.
- It was launched by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in August 2020, on international and national routes to assist farmers in transporting agricultural products so that it improves their value realization.
- Under International UDAN, the plan is to connect India’s smaller cities directly to some key foreign destinations in the neighborhood.
- Under this phase, 5 airlines companies were awarded 128 flight routes to 70 airports
- This was including 36 newly made operational airports.
- In 2018, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced 73 underserved and unserved airports.
- For the first time, helipads were also connected under phase 2 of the UDAN scheme.
- It included Tourism Routes under UDAN 3 in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism.
- Included Seaplanes for connecting Water Aerodromes.
- Brought in several routes in the North-East Region under the ambit of UDAN.
- In 2020, 78 new routes were approved under the 4th round of RCS-UDAN to further enhance the connectivity to remote & regional areas of the country.
- Kavaratti, Agatti, and Minicoy islands of Lakshadweep will be connected by the new routes of UDAN 4.0.
- The UDAN 4.1 focuses on connecting smaller airports, along with a special helicopter and seaplane routes.
- Some new routes have been proposed under the Sagarmala Seaplane services.
- Sagarmala Seaplane Services is an ambitious project under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways with potential airline operators.
Significance and key features of UDAN
- Airlines were awarded routes under the program through a bidding process and are required to offer airfares at the rate of ₹2,500 per hour of flight.
- At least 50% of the total seats on an aircraft have to be offered at cheaper rates.
- To enable airlines to offer affordable fares, they are given a subsidy from the Government for three years.
- The Government had also earmarked ₹4,500 crores for the revival of 50 airports in the first three years.
The Scheme has benefitted a diverse set of stakeholders.
- Passengers have got the benefits of air connectivity.
- Airlines have received concessions for operating regional routes.
- Unserved regions have received the direct and indirect benefits of air connectivity for their economic development.
The success rate of the RCS scheme was less than 20% in the first two phases to numerous hurdles like:
- The financial crunch of several smaller regional carriers has been pulling back the success of the scheme.
- Poor maintenance of the aircraft has also been a big issue in implementing the scheme successfully on several routes.
- Pending reforms in DGCA (aviation regulator) and AAI rules and regulations are one of the main hurdles.
- Also, the lack of proper infrastructure and shortage of pilots add to the operational hurdles.
The airlines are still operating mostly in tier-I airports having more footfall for more gains. The bigger airlines are monopolizing routes and gaining on low operational costs. This should be addressed by stakeholders to improve the efficiency of the UDAN scheme.
Government should ensure that more infrastructures are made available in all tiers and that the DGCA rules and regulations are updated for smoother implementation.