Mumbai, June 11: UDAN, the low-cost flying scheme that was launched as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream of making every Indian fly, seems to have hit troubled weather. Reports say that the slow pace of construction of airports is not allowing more flights for now. The construction of airports is way behind target, says a report by news agency Reuters. The reports states that while the government planned to open 31 new airports by the end of 2017, only 16 are operational so far.
The UDAN scheme was launched by the Modi government in 2017. It aims at running more flights connecting smaller towns and cities and incentivising airlines to offer discounted fares, making a million more Indians fly. While launching the scheme, the Modi government had said that it wanted to make flying affordable for the common man wearing havai chappals (flip-flops).
However, the scheme has hit turbulence. The Reuters report quotes a government official as saying that some states have said they do not have enough funds to purchase basic equipment such as mandatory fire tenders. "In other cases, it is taking longer than planned to build air traffic control towers or set up terminal buildings equipped with baggage scanners and security systems," the official said. The government has reportedly told states that it will get the required equipment and lease it to them to make regional airports functional as soon as possible.
According to the report, even the first phase of the scheme is behind schedule as flights have begun on just 60 of the 128 planned routes. The government plans to delay the start of phase three, the official reportedly said.
Meanwhile, the airlines under the scheme, too, have more than just the regional airport construction hurdles. Newer and smaller airlines like Air Deccan and Air Odisha have said that bigger airports like Mumbai and Delhi have busy traffic and provide "limited landing slots." They also say that since they have not been able to start many flights that were planned yet, they are not meeting their revenue expectations, which is worrying as their aircraft are leased.
With UDAN scheme slowing down ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it remains to be seen how the Narendra Modi government adds pace to the infrastructure to meet target.