Visakhapatnam: Flight operations to nearby tier-II and tier-III cities from Vizag airport under UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) initiative is yet to take off even though the city airport was included in the regional connectivity scheme in the first phase itself. In Round 1, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had selected Air Odisha for operation in the Visakhapatnam- Jagdalpur- Raipur route on March 30 last year.
Among others, Air Odisha will connect towns like Kadapa, Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Jagdalpur, Raigarh, Jharsuguda, Utkela, Ranchi, Gwalior, Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Surat, Bhavnagar, Salem, Pondicherry, Neyveli as per the routes allowed to it. The airline was scheduled to commence its operation from last September in Vizag network as per the award letter. However, it is yet to do so. “Till date, the flight operator, Air Odisha, has not contacted our office,” said Vizag airport director G. Prakash Reddy, about the status of the flight operations under UDAN scheme.
He added that the AAI could only take a call with respect to the delay in commencement of operation. He pointed out that with the bus fares going up during festive and summer times, more people are preferring flights and the regional connectivity to small cities would have increased the footfalls of the air passengers at the city airport.
City-based industrialists are of the view that as Raipur and Jagdalpur are industrial and commercial hubs and hence connectivity of the cities with Vizag would improve the business scenario. According to sources, in the first round of UDAN, where fares are capped at `2,500 for an hour of flying in a plane for a specified number of RCS seats on each flight, 128 routes were awarded in March 2017. But only 40 per cent of those are operating till now as two airlines — Air Deccan and Air Odisha, which got 84 of those routes — are yet to start flying on a majority of them.