Business Standard

20-seater air taxis to connect major UP towns

The service would be launched under the existing 'Open Sky Policy', which had come into effect in June 2014, but utterly failed to take off due to factors, including commercial viability

Virendra Singh Rawat  |  Lucknow 

Photo by Emanuele, courtesy Tech in Asia
Photo by Emanuele, courtesy Tech in Asia

government is gearing up to allow between prominent towns to boost tourism in the state.

The government is working on a model, wherein small 20-seater aircraft would connect towns, including Lucknow, Varanasi, Agra, Allahabad, Meerut etc.

The service would be launched under the existing 'Open Sky Policy', which had come into effect in June 2014, but utterly failed to take off due to factors, including commercial viability.

About 18 companies, including Jet Serve Aviation, Indus Airways, Aryan, Northeast Shuttles, CD Aviation, Fairwinds Aviation etc had earlier submitted proposals evincing interest in the service. Some companies had even given presentation before the state tourism department. But, no air service could be launched.

Recently, Air India (AI) had offered to deploy a 70-seater aircraft for the service, however, the state government wants smaller aircraft to fly in identified routes.

"As per our study, we are confident that there is enough viability for 20-seater aircraft. The state government is ready to chip in with viability gap funding (VGF) for the proposed services," UP tourism principal secretary Naveneet Sehgal said.

The 'Open Sky Policy' had cleared the way for commercial operation of small aircraft and air taxis to connect towns such as Agra, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Meerut, Allahabad, Lucknow, Chitrakoot, Moradabad, Kushinagar etc. All these are major commercial and tourism spots.

The idea was to cut travel time for commuters. In first phase, Lucknow-Allahabad, Lucknow-Agra, Lucknow-Meerut and Lucknow-Varanasi circuits were proposed to be connected.

The policy also provides for underwriting of some seats by the state government to ensure sustainability of the service.

To attract aviation companies, the government would also give exemption in Value Added Tax (VAT) on fuel to non-scheduled airlines if they operate within the state. However, aircraft weighing only up to 40 tonnes would be eligible for VAT waiver.

Besides, the airlines would be provided with free take off and landing facilities at state air strips. In later states, the government wants to connect Buddhist Circuit with air service. This would envisage connecting Kushinagar with direct flight from Lucknow or via Gorakhpur.

There has been a significant rise in tourist inflow to UP from 7,27,000 backpackers in 1998 to almost 3 million in 2014. The state figures among the top three tourist destinations in India for both domestic and foreign backpackers. However, lack of proper connectivity and road infrastructure prevents the state from exploiting its full potential.

Meanwhile, UP is gearing up to give tourism department hotels and rest houses on lease to private companies. The government has identified 37 such properties all over the state and about 55 companies had recently attended its pre-bid meeting.

EOM

First Published: Mon, February 15 2016. 17:12 IST
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