With plans to operate seaplanes between the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, the government’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme is set to give a huge push to tourism in the strategically important region.
“For the first time, we have got proposals from operators willing to operate seaplanes between the islands of Andaman and Nicobar. SpiceJet and a new entity called Andaman Airways have shown interest,” said a senior aviation ministry official.
Under the programme, christened Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), the government aims to bring air connectivity to remote parts of the country.
The islands that would be connected through seaplanes are Campbell Bay, Car Nicobar, Havelock, Hutbay, Neil, Long Island and Diglipur. Andaman and Nicobar is a vast archipelago — a collection of 500 islands. Some of the islands are extremely popular among tourists. While the capital, Port Blair, has direct air connectivity with the Indian mainland, there is a dearth of connectivity between the islands.
The government’s decision is significant as the islands are of maritime importance to India with their potential for trade and surveillance. It is also a vital military base housing the country’s only tri-service command.
Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the island becoming only the fourth PM in history to do so. The Modi government has initiated other important steps including on internet connectivity, visa liberalisation, tourism, building new ports and agreements on cooperation with neighbouring countries in South East Asia. Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation cleared regulations for seaplane operations recently, making it possible for operators to give proposals, the official said.
Tour operators said the move will result in overall economic development of the region. “A big problem tourists face is the connectivity between the islands. Tourists tend to stick to one island and not move around because of this. Seaplanes will increase the tourist flow.” said Harris Anselm of SkyLine Travels, one of the top tour operators in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Low-cost airline SpiceJet plans to buy more than 100 seaplanes at an estimated cost of $400 million.
“We can see a lot of interests from several states and the prime minister using a seaplane has given it a further push. Everyone feels it can boost tourism in a very big way in connecting places that are difficult to access by roads or any other means,” Spicejet Chief Managing Director Ajay Singh had said.
Islands that will get connected
- Campbell Bay
- Car Nicobar
- Hut Bay Island
- Long Island
- Neil Island