India’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) Promises Better Days in 2021

by Ajay Prakash

The Regional Connectivity Scheme of the Government of India aims at making flying affordable for the common man. The Ministry of Civil Aviation, released the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016 (NCAP 2016). One of the objectives of NCAP 2016 is to “enhance regional connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development.”

In 2017, the government set aside $600 million (Rs 4,500 Crores) to develop or upgrade the under-served or unserved airports by 2020. Most of these airports are now operational. Let us review the progress made by some of these small city airports.

Darbhanga Airport Passenger Traffic Crosses Fifty Thousand in Two Months

Darbhanga Airport – Photo Mithila777 Source Wiki Commons

Darbhanga Airport sets an example of how smaller towns can contribute significantly to the country’s aviation sector growth. Darbhanga is the fifth-largest city in the northern state of Bihar. The town had an air force station, which was upgraded to handle commercial flights. The airport started commercial operations from 8 November 2020 onwards.

As many as 56,698 passengers have travelled on over three hundred flights under the government’s regional air connectivity scheme in less than two months of the scheme becoming operational. Currently, SpiceJet is the only airline connecting Darbhanga. The airline provides flights to Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore and has plans to connect Hyderabad soon.

Jharsuguda – A Small Industrial Town Does Well

Jharsuguda Airport – Credit Radhamadhab Sarangi Source Wiki Commons

An abandoned airfield in the eastern state of Odisha that was once used by the Royal Air Force and the Allied Forces during World War II was renovated to create a civil airfield in September 2018 (named as Veer Surendra Sai Airport). The government constructed a 5500 square feet passenger terminal, spending about $7 million (Rs 50 crores), which handles about one hundred and fifty (150) passengers at any given time. SpiceJet and Alliance Air connects the city to Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Raipur. From 12 January 2021 onwards, SpiceJet has announced new flights to Mumbai and Bangalore.

The airport had 2066 flights operating between June and November 2020, carrying more than 85,000 passengers. The passenger traffic was down only 38 per cent when compared to 2019. Despite negative growth, the passenger traffic is commendable when other similar towns showed negative growth above 50 per cent.

Kangra Airport – A Sleepy Himalayan Town Remains Busy

Kangra Airport – Photo Credit Balaji J source Wiki Commons

Kangra Airport or Gaggal connects the picturesque towns of Kangra and Dharamsala in the northern Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh with the rest of the country. Alliance Air and SpiceJet provide connectivity with Chandigarh and Delhi. From June to November last year, the airport saw passenger traffic of over 100,000 with 1200 flights. Tourism picked up in the latter part of the year, and with high snowfall this winter, the flights remain full.

FlyBig – India’s Newest Regional Airline

Lastly, India’s newest regional airline – FlyBig, starts operations in the first week of the new year. The airline’s inaugural flight is scheduled for 3 January from Indore to Ahmedabad. Later this month, the airline will connect Raipur to Indore. The airline has plans to add Bhopal to its network in March. FlyBig will also operate bi-weekly flights between Delhi and Shillong in the north-east.

Altogether, a promising start to the new year for Indian Aviation. The regional connectivity seems to be achieving its objective of ‘may the common man fly.’

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