Pondy, Mysuru, Salem flightsmay take out of kilter from Chennai in August

CHENNAI: Air travel to small towns from Chennai is going to get a increase as flights to , , Neyveli, Kadapa and under regional connectivity scheme are likely to be flagged out of kilter next month.
A report on the regional connectivity scheme Udan, released by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) this month, has set deadlines for the flights to small towns. It also illustrates that AAI is gearing to start more flights to small towns by end of the year.

Chennai to Kannur service will begin in December, while services to Thanjavur and Vellore which should have commenced in January are expected to be delayed added. AAI has not set a new deadline for starting services at these airports.

Flights to Neyveli will take some more time as the is not ready. Sources say though the airstrip and the campus are ready, some more work needs to be completed for making the airport fit to receive flights.

On the Chennai-Kannur route, IndiGo flights will be launched in December, while SpiceJet flights which were scheduled for January this year could not be started as the airport was not ready. Kannur airport is expected to be ready in two to three months.

The Thanjavur flights by SpiceJet were scheduled for Janaury as per the Udan report of AAI. These routes were awarded to these airlines during the second round of bidding for Udan flights.

Low-cost carriers which had placed orders for small planes like ATR and Bombardier had garnered the most routes during the second phase of the bidding.

The routes to Puduchery, Salem, Neyveli, Kadapa and Mysuru were awarded to Air Odisha under phase 1 of the regional connectivity scheme but could not be commissioned either because the airports were not ready or the airlines were not ready.

A senior official of AAI said many Udan routes awarded in the first round of bidding in July last year were taken up by new airlines which took time to arange planes and staff to start operations. “The routes awarded in the second round of bidding in January this year are likely to start quickly because professionally-run low-cost carriers like IndiGo and SpiceJet have won the routes. The airlines have also started a few services to small towns without including them under the Udan scheme. This boosted air travel between small cities,” he said.

An airline official said, “The passengers are now used to flying to small towns and this is the right time to start more services under Udan.”

As of now, regional connectivity scheme has taken out of kilter well in the southern region after services were launched to Mysuru, Salem, Kadapa, Hubli and a few nonstandard towns last year. There will be more flights under round two of the scheme as the money earmarked for viability gap funding to encourage airlines to fly is more for southern region ( Rs 113 crore), hinting that there will be more flights to small towns in the south.

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