Aiming to connect small towns with air routes to give the quintessential ordinary man or “aam admi” the opportunity to undertake air travel, the government unveiled the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) on October 21, 2016.
As part of it, 100 new airports as well as helipads and water aerodromes are to be developed between 2019 and 2024 to support the UDAN program. In addition to this, 780 valid routes were allocated to the shortlisted airlines after four rounds of tendering.
The Airports Authority of India has planned a sum of around Rs 25,000 crore for a period of five years, from 2019 to 2024, during which the 100 new airports, heliports and hydrodromes will be made operational.
To date, out of 780 valid routes, only 359 routes have been made operational, according to official sources.
The airports update shows that in fiscal year 2019-20, nine airports were developed, 14 airports had been developed up to the third quarter of 2020-2021 (i.e. December 2020 ), on the proposed target of 26 airports that were to be developed during this fiscal year.
In the current fiscal year (2021-22) and in 2022-23, 20 airports each are to be developed while 25 airports in 2023-24 are to be developed.
Therefore, according to information provided by the Ministry of Civil Aviation itself, until December 2020, only 23 airports had been developed under the UDAN program, even though it is halfway through its period of occupation.
Regarding the parameters adopted to identify airports under the UDAN program, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has stated that it is a market-oriented program, under which interested airlines, based on their assessment of demand on particular routes, submit their bids at auction time.
An airport which is included in the assigned routes of RCS – UDAN and requires upgrading or development for the start of RCS operations, is being developed under the program to “revive unserved and underserved airports”.
The UDAN program is financed by a levy of Rs 50 on plane tickets on the main roads. The tax accounts for 80 percent of the sustainability gap funding provided to airlines, with the remaining 20 percent provided by state governments.