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Aam aadmi's UDAN scheme set to get wings from Oct 21

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The aam aadmi can look forward to fly at fares as low as Rs 2,500 with the government set to give wings on Friday to its ambitious regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Udey Desh Ka Aam Nagrik).

The government had on July 1 unveiled the draft scheme, which fixed all-inclusive fares at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights in its attempt to make flying affordable for the common man.

Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju is expected to announce the final contours of UDAN scheme on October 21, sources said.

Besides capping ticket prices, the scheme seeks to provide air services between unserved and under-served areas and is part of larger plans to boost the domestic aviation sector, which is clocking over 20 per cent passenger growth since more than a year now, with the number of passengers flown by the Indian carriers surging to 23.46 per cent in September.

The government expects the first flight under RCS (regional connectivity scheme) to take off by the end of this year or early January 2017.

Global airlines grouping International Air Transport Association, in its latest 20 years forecast, has projected that India would add 322 new fliers in its total 442 million air passengers by 2035.

Under the scheme, government also plans to upgrade 50 unserved and underserved airports in the country, which would further boost air connectivity pan-India.

There are 394 unserved and 16 under-served airports.

A slew of incentives are being proposed in the RCS apart from the Rs 2,500 airfares. Airlines under RCS will be extended viability gap funding (VGF) while the states concerned are required to offer certain concessions such as providing police and fire services free of cost.

VGF will be created by way of charging a small levy per departure on all domestic flights on certain routes and small aircraft below 80 seats. Central and state governments will be sharing the VGF amount.

The government has already in notified August excise duty of 2 per cent for jet fuel purchased from airports that come under RCS, which is part of the new civil aviation policy.

Most airlines and airports in India are targeting IT

investment in this area to capitalise on the trend. Over the next three years, 80 per cent of airlines and 67 per cent of airports plan major projects developing mobile services for passengers, it said.

"Mobile self-service usage levels are still modest overall, but higher than seen globally. For example, 27 per cent of Indian passengers booked their last flight through a mobile app, significantly higher than the 16 per cent global average. Likewise, check-in through a mobile app was performed by 14 per cent of travellers in India, versus 12 per cent globally," as per the survey findings.

"Our survey on passenger IT trends indicates a strong preference from travellers worldwide to embrace these technologies and travellers in India are proving no exception with adoption rates at, or above global norms. Over the next few years, there will be a significant deployment of sensor technologies, such as beacons, at Indian airports. This will usher in a new era of passenger experience including geo location-based mobile services.

"It will also be the precursor to a much bigger wave of connected traveller concepts that will deliver more business insight and with it bring better decision-making and greater predictability to day to day operations and passenger facilitation," SITA vice President for India and Sub-Continent Maneesh Jaikrishna said.

However, the modernisation of India's aviation sector to embrace digital technologies brings with it the security challenge of cyber attacks. It is a global problem that affects the air transport industry as well as every other industry, he said.

While a few airlines and airports are at the global level in terms of their preparedness for such attacks many are lagging behind, he said adding, "some (airlines) have already suffered security breaches and learned lessons from the mistakes. This should act as a wake-up call for Indian aviation."

The survey also projects that as much as 86 per cent of the Indian airports plan major programmes on single biometric token by 2019.

First Published: Wed, October 19 2016. 18:22 IST