The tourism ministry has urged the civil aviation ministry to develop airports in at least 12 popular tourist cities of the country including Aurangabad Airport to promote connectivity and said it will provide the funding for the projects, officials have said.
The tourism ministry has tentatively identified these cities, including some in Buddhist circuit, for the hub under the regional connectivity scheme but the aviation ministry has asked for a comprehensive list so that they can plan the development work.
“There have been few rounds of consultancy meeting and once the proposal is finalised, we will start developing the airports. Some of these areas have functional airport while some have airstrips, depending on the requirement, we will develop it,” a civil aviation ministry official said.
The cities and sites are Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, Ajanta and Ellora in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar and Red Fort in Delhi, Colva beach in Goa, Amer Fort in Rajasthan, Somnath and Dholavira in Gujarat, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, Hampi in Karnataka, Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, Kaziranga in Assam, Kumarakom in Kerala and the Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar.
The civil aviation ministry provides viability gap funding (VGF) so that airlines come forward to ply on difficult routes under the connectivity scheme. In the latest plan, the tourism ministry will provide the funding and there will be no fare cap, unlike the connectivity scheme.
After the second round of the connectivity scheme, 78 airports including 36 currently served airports, 13 currently underserved airports and 29 currently unserved airports will be connected. In addition, 31 helipads or heliports will be connected through helicopters in the priority areas.
The government expects 13 lakh seats to be available under the scheme after the second round. The airfare for a one hour’s journey of 500km on a fixed-wing aircraft or for a 30-minute journey on a helicopter would be capped at Rs 2,500 under the scheme.
The selected airline operator would have to provide 50% of the flight capacity – subject to a minimum of nine and a maximum of 40 – as connectivity scheme seats for operations through fixed-wing aircraft and a minimum of five and a maximum of 13 seats on the RCS flights for operations through helicopters.
The scheme, Udey Desh ka Aam Nagarik (UDAN), is part of the National Civil Aviation Policy that was announced in 2016, to make air travel affordable and widespread. A first-of-its-kind initiative, it is aimed at “stimulating” regional connectivity in the country through a “market-based mechanism.”