Udan spreads wings, Delhi-Shimla and Kolkata-Deoghar among new routes


In April 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off Alliance Air’s Delhi-Shimla flight heralding a new era in regional air connectivity. The flight, however, was suspended in March 2020 and Shimla virtually fell off the aviation map.

But there is good news for travellers. The Delhi-Shimla route is among nine that airlines plan to launch in the next 50 days under the civil aviation ministry’s

“We will receive our first new ATR 42-600 aircraft by July-end and another in September. We hope to start service between Delhi and Shimla, and Delhi and Kota from August 15 with the new aircraft. However, that depends upon the readiness of the airports,” said Alliance Air’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vineet Sood.

Shimla has a tabletop airport and a new runway end safety area is being built as an additional safety measure. According to an Airport Authority of India official, the work is expected to be completed by July 15 and would need approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Additionally, Alliance Air plans to deploy the new aircraft on existing routes between Delhi-Kullu and Delhi-Dharamshala. These routes are currently served with ATR 72 aircraft, which seats 70 passengers.

Also Read: 194,000 flights were operated in six years under UDAN scheme: Scindia

“The ATR 42-600 route is more suitable than the ATR 72 for operations at airports with short runways or with high elevation. Its operating costs are lower. Also, at such airports, there are restrictions on maximum takeoff weight. So it is more profitable to deploy ATR 42 aircraft,” Sood said.

“Currently, we serve 52 destinations. Overall, our performance has been good and we will be adding new flights in northeastern states under the scheme. After the delivery of our second ATR 42 aircraft we will have more than 20 aircraft in the fleet and we will gradually commence operations to neighbouring countries,” he said.

Odisha will get new flights under the

We hope to start service between Bhubaneswar-Jeypore and Vizag-Jeypore later this month,” said Arun Kumar Singh, the airline’s CEO.

IndiaOne Air will use single-engine nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft on the routes. Incidentally, it will be the first scheduled airline to use a single-engine aircraft for commercial flights. “Our plan is to provide safe, on time, and reliable service,” Singh said.

According to Singh, fuel price is not a big worry as the airline is using single-engine aircraft. Demand, too, is not a challenge as growth is expected to be driven by tier-II and -III towns. The main concern, Singh said, is maintaining schedule reliability as smaller airports are not equipped with modern navigation aids and have higher visibility requirements for landing. Also the DGCA has permitted IndiaOne Air to operate only during the day since the Grand Caravan is a single engine aircraft. “This reduces aircraft utilisation,” he said.

In fact, the delay in airport readiness is among the reasons for slow take-off of the scheme. Adverse weather and poor infrastructure contributed to the problem as it led to inconsistent operations. The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the scheme further with overall reduction in flights.

Moreover, airlines participating in the scheme shut down. These include Air Costa, Air Carnival, and Zoom Air. TruJet suspended operations in February and is yet to resume despite funding commitments from new investors.

44% of routes operationalised

Only around 44 per cent of the 948 routes awarded under the scheme have been operationalised so far.


“Udan was meant to stimulate the market in addition to opening up new routes. The idea was to make routes market ready without subsidy. Clearly, that is not working well. Sustaining routes beyond three years is a challenge. It can only be partly blamed on Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ameya Joshi, aviation expert and founder of aviation blog, Network Thoughts.

Connecting India

Number of routes awarded under Udan: 948

Number of routes operationalised: 423

Collection of Regional Air Connectivity Fund: Rs 2,458.95 cr

Fund disbursal to airlines: Rs 1,784.39 cr (till March)

Source: Lok Sabha replies


Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: