Indigo Airlines
The government is set to announce more sectors under the subsidised air travel programme of UDAN aimed at boosting tourism.Reuters file

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to soon announce new routes under its regional connectivity scheme (RCS) of UDAN, an acronym for Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (citizens of a rising nation) in a major boost to tourism in the hills, the northeast region and the islands in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Under the scheme, the government wants to ensure that the convenience of air travel is available in underserved sectors through a demand-driven scheme subsided by the central and state governments.

Prime Minister Modi had in his Independence Day speech this year promised steps to promote tourism within the country

The central government provides viability gap funding to airlines and waives certain airport charges to make these services sustainable, while states waive local levies on jet fuel, a report on the Livemint website says. In the last three rounds, the central government awarded more than 600 regional connectivity routes to airlines.

Weak job scene

"The aim is to have 1,000 well-served regional connectivity routes under UDAN. We hope to achieve this over the next few years," the report quotes an unidentified government official as saying. Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, the northeastern states and the islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep are the priority in the next round. "The interest from airlines is strong," the official said.

Under the UDAN programme, affordable air connectivity has been extended to several previously underserved or unserved airports such as Bhatinda and Ludhiana, the report says. However, services from some places are yet to take off.

Dornier Aircraft 2
A Dornier aircraft is seen parked at the Bengaluru International Airport. The Airports Authority of India has been tasked with reviving the unserved and underserved sectors under UDAN's regional connectivity scheme.Wikimedia commons

The regional air connectivity is expected to boost tourism and create more jobs. Prime Minister Modi had in his Independence Day speech this year promised steps to promote tourism within the country. The weak job scene is seen as hurting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politically.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is tasked with reviving unserved and underserved airports and airstrips with state governments, the report says. The Civil Aviation Ministry has set a target of taking passenger traffic to one billion a year in 15-20 years, nearly four times 265 million in 2016-17. Last time UDAN awarded domestic routes, 235 sectors were granted to 11 airlines including IndiGo, and SpiceJet. Though the low-cost carriers have taken up several new sectors, the currency volatility and oil price uncertainty have been hurting them. IndiGo, the largest carrier by market share, recently reported a net loss of Rs 1,062 crore in the second quarter, a historically weak quarter for the industry, although revenue from operations rose 31 percent year on year to Rs 8,105 crore.