PM Narendra Modi launched the UDAN scheme in Shimla on Thursday.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched UDAN, a scheme to help people to fly cheap to small towns. "Air travel is now not just for the rich, I want air travel to be for all," PM Modi said after flagging off flights from Jubbarhatti, an airport on the outskirts of Shimla. UDAN is short for "Ude desh ka aam naagrik", meaning 'the common man flies'. With aviation being regarded as a sunrise sector, it became the centerpiece of India's first national aviation policy launched in June last year. Announced four months later, Udan connects small towns with big cities. The lowest airfare is Rs. 2,500.
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PM Modi flagged off three flights - on the Shimla-Delhi sector, the Kadapa-Hyderabad and the Nanded-Hyderabad sectors. "My dream was to see a person who wears a hawai chappal (slipper) to fly on the hawai jahaz (aeroplane)," he said, underscoring the thrust on keep fares affordable.
Announcing the launch in a series of tweets, the Prime Minister's Office said the airfare for a one-hour journey of 500 km has been capped at Rs 2,500, which will be an all-inclusive charge.
For longer routes and flight duration, the pricing may vary. A single person can buy 9 to 40 seats in a flight.
Under the scheme, five companies will operate flight services on 128 routes that will connect 70 airports across the country. The operators will include SpiceJet, Air Odisha, Air India subsidiary Airline Allied Services, Air Deccan, and Turbo Megha.
The airlines need to block only 50 per cent cheap tickets. The rest can be sold at market rates. But airlines have indicated that they are not too happy with the arrangement.
"To make air travel accessible to citizens in regionally important areas, the 'Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik' RCS (regional connectivity scheme) was launched in October, 2016," the PMO tweeted.
To boost regional connectivity, the government planned to connect 44 airports in various Tier-II cities with metros. In many of them, flights had been discontinued due to low demand.
Of the 44 airports, the government had identified 22 which were flight-ready last year. The list included Bhavnagar, Bhatinda, Gwalior, Durgapur and Jaisalmer.
The state governments had to be brought on board for the scheme. The tricky negotiations were carried out by Union Aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju.
While in Shimla, PM Modi will also address a rally at the historic Ridge Maidan. This will be his first visit to Shimla after becoming Prime Minister. Last year, he had addressed a BJP rally at Mandi.