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Modi's ambitious UDAN plan hits air pocket

By Arindam Majumder
October 17, 2017 10:40 IST
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GMR-led Delhi Airport had accepted the government’s request to shift UDAN flights to Hindon Air Force Base, but airlines say poor last mile connectivity will have to be dealt with first before starting operations

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

The government’s plan of using Hindon Air Force base as an alternative for Delhi airport is facing a hurdle with new airlines refusing to operate from there citing competitive disadvantage.


This has put the success of government’s ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme under scanner as Air Deccan and Air Odisha - the two new airlines have got more than 80 routes are yet to start operations.

The two new operators have sought permission for at least 16 movements of their planes from the Delhi airport, but has received only four slots.

“For the rest of the slots, we have been asked to consider Hindon Air Force Base, but this will not work for us as operating from Hindon will defeat the entire purpose of seamless connectivity, we have expressed our reservation to the government,” said a senior Air Deccan official.

Poor last mile connectivity between Delhi and Hindon, air force's own operational requirements (which can limit civilian flights) is the issue which the airlines say will have to be dealt with first before starting operations.

“You cannot expect a passenger to take a regional flight to Hindon, then travel an hour in a cab to catch his next flight which will be from Delhi airport, it will defeat the entire purpose of Udan of building seamless air connectivity with hinterland India,” said the Air Deccan official which said it will participate in the second round of bidding process.

“The multi-modal connectivity through a fast mode of transport has to be developed first,” he adds.

GMR-led Delhi Airport had accepted the government’s request to shift UDAN flights to Hindon Air Force Base.

According to the arrangement, the airport operator will decide which flights are to be shifted to Hindon.

“In this arrangement lies the problem, GMR will give slots to established airlines as they will earn landing charges from them but since the UDAN flights do not attract any landing charges those have been asked to move to Hindon,” the official said.

“Our aircraft are ready, we have got all necessary approvals for air worthiness, it’s only the availability of slots which is proving to be a hindrance to start operations,” he added.

Delhi Airport is the hub of domestic operations in the country and growth of operations over the years has seen its capacity severely constrained. Delhi airport sees over 1200 flights daily and its three runways can handle 67 aircraft movements per hour.

While the terminal expansion is facing delays, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) has expressed inability to allow more flights due to runway capacity constraints.

Due to the impasse over the availability of slots, most of the routes under Udan are yet to open leading to a question mark over the scheme’s success.

Experts said that Hindon base is definitely not a viable alternative over a major airport for airlines.

“Opening of Hindon air base for passenger flights face challenges due to surface access, the higher prospect of bird strikes and splitting airline resources at yet another location,” aviation consultancy CAPA warned in a recent report.

CAPA  has warned of serious capacity challenges for Indian airports as domestic airlines are expected to induct 350-400 planes over the next five years.

“Airlines are already facing challenges securing overnight parking bays. This will become increasingly difficult with so many aircraft scheduled for induction over the next five years.

As metro airports become saturated airlines will have to deploy more capacity to tier II cities over the next three years,” CAPA said

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Arindam Majumder in New Delhi
Source: source

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