The Centre has awarded 78 new routes under the fourth round of bidding for Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) -- UDAN -- to further enhance the network to remote and regional areas of the country.
According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Northeastern region, 'Hilly States and Islands' have been given priority in the approval process for the new routes.
The fourth round of bidding offered 29 served, eight unserved (including two heliports and one water aerodrome), and two underserved airports.
Overall 766 routes have been sanctioned so far under the UDAN scheme.
"The awarding of these 78 routes under UDAN 4 is in line with the 'Act East Policy' of the central government," Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, was quoted as saying in a statement on Thursday.
"The airports that had already been developed by AAI are given higher priority for the award of VGF under the scheme. Under UDAN 4, the operation of helicopter and seaplanes is also being incorporated. Since its inception, MoCA has operationalised 274 UDAN routes that have connected 45 airports and 3 heliports."
Last year, the Centre invited bids for the fourth round of the RCS-Udan scheme.
The focus of this round would be the priority areas like the Northeastern and hill states, the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and islands.
Accordingly, the scheme provides various concessions to the selected airline operators to operate routes under RCS-Udan from Centre and state government s. Accordingly, the fourth round of the scheme features a revision of viability gap funding (VGF) cap.
Besides, the new round will promote short-haul routes up to 500km.
Further, the scheme has a provision to provide flexibility to change the frequency of flight operation.
In January 2019, the Centre had awarded contracts to 11 companies to operate fixed-wing and seaplane services under the third round of air regional connectivity scheme connecting destinations like Ambala, Amravati, Campbell Bay and Car Nicobar among others.
That time, the ministry had issued "Letter of Awards" for 73 proposals involving 235 regional connectivity and water aerodrome routes which were received under the third round of RCS-Udan.