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Regional connectivity under UDAN: Guwahati likely to be first city to start global operations
Financial Express, January 08, 2019

After more than one-and-a-half years of plying on domestic routes, the low-cost, regional connectivity scheme, or UDAN, is set to go international from March this year. Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has bagged two overseas routes from Guwahati under the International Air Connectivity Scheme (ICAS-UDAN), a civil aviation ministry official told FE.
The carrier emerged as the lowest bidder for the Guwahati-Bangkok and Guwahati-Dhaka routes out of six destinations on offer. The licences to operate these sectors are likely to be awarded after the civil aviation ministry receives funds from the Assam government for viability gap funding.

“The Assam government has given its consent (for the operator) but we are waiting for funds from the state. As soon as we have it, operations permit will be awarded. The international operations could start from March,” an aviation ministry official said. Other routes such as Guwahati-Kathmandu, Guwahati-Kuala Lumpur, Guwahati-Yangon and Guwahati-Singapore did not receive bids from the airlines.

Under the International Air Connectivity Scheme (ICAS-Udan), the Assam government offered a per seat subsidy of Rs 2,370 to Dhaka and Rs 4,400 to Bangkok to promote tourism and investment from Asean nations to Northeastern states.

Meanwhile, the government is likely to announce the successful bidders for the third round of UDAN for domestic routes next week. Around 86 proposals by 15 airlines, including IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and Alliance Air are under consideration. These include tier II and III cities, tourist and seaplane destinations. New players such as Andaman Airways could be among the UDAN licence winners. Two regional carriers — Air Odisha and Air Deccan — whose several routes were cancelled for failing to start operations under previous rounds have also submitted bids under UDAN 3. However, officials said these airlines are unlikely to be given more routes considering their poor operating record in UDAN 1. “They still have routes left where they are yet to start operations,” the official added.

Around 450 routes have been awarded by the government in two rounds since March 2017. However, less than 100 routes were functional by October 2018 owing to limited financial capability of regional airlines and lack of airport preparedness.

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