New Delhi, January 7: The central government has received bids for 111 routes from 15 airlines under the third round of auction for the UDAN scheme, a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official said Monday.
The Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme is a subsidised low fare initiative to connect small cities and to help more people fly. “There were 15 airlines that have bid total 111 initial proposals, which were then placed in the counter bidding. Among these 15 airlines, six airlines participated in counter bidding and these six airlines put in a total of 17 counter proposals,” the MOCA official said.
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The Centre did not include chopper routes under the third round of auctions as there have already been “so many pending routes under UDAN-2 that have not been initiated through helicopters”, the official said.
Under the second phase of the UDAN scheme, the government last year had auctioned various routes in the Northeast and hilly districts as chopper routes.
“There are 31 heliports and these heliports are not ready yet. There was no licensing of heliport earlier...It used to be just helipad. These helipads are not permitted for scheduled or commuter operations,” the official explained.
“Helicopter operation in a scheduled environment requires a high-level of safety and security. So, nobody wants to take any risk now. So that is why it is taking time because all these heliports are either owned by state governments or defense department,” the official said.
The government, in its bid to make flying more affordable for the masses, had in 2016 announced the UDAN scheme wherein the fares were capped at Rs 2,500 for a one-hour journey for connecting smaller towns.
Following this, five airlines got the licence to operate on 128 routes in the first round of auctions in March 2017, and 15 airlines on 325 routes, including those having chopper operations, in the second round in January this year.