In a significant stride towards enhancing air connectivity and accessibility, the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) in India has completed seven successful years. Today, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her interim budget presentation for 2024, highlighted the remarkable progress made in the aviation sector over the past decade.
The Finance Minister said, “The aviation sector has been galvanized in the past ten years. The number of airports has doubled to 149. The rollout of air connectivity to tier-two and tier-three cities under the UDAN scheme has been widespread. Five hundred and seventeen new routes are carrying 1.3 crore passengers. Indian carriers have proactively placed orders for over 1000 new aircraft. Expansion of existing airports and development of new airports will continue expeditiously.”
What is UDAN initiative?
The RCS-UDAN initiative, a key component of India’s National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2016, was launched on October 21, 2016, with a visionary 10-year plan. Since its inception, the scheme has achieved noteworthy milestones, doubling the number of airports to 149 and introducing air connectivity to tier-two and tier-three cities through the UDAN scheme.
Over the past six years, RCS-UDAN has played a pivotal role in facilitating the travel of more than 1.3 crore passengers, showcasing its success in enhancing air travel accessibility, especially in remote and underserved regions. A total of 499 UDAN routes have been operationalized, connecting previously overlooked areas and contributing to the overall growth of the civil aviation industry.
The latest UDAN 5.0, 5.1, and 5.2 iterations focus on enhancing connectivity further by removing restrictions on aircraft distance, reducing airfare caps, and prioritizing routes connecting operational airports.
The success of RCS-UDAN has fueled the growth of the aviation industry, leading to the emergence of four new successful airlines, including FlyBig, Star Air, and IndiaOne Air. These regional airlines have not only thrived but have also contributed to the scheme’s objective of creating a sustainable and amiable ecosystem conducive to airline business.
The demand for new aircraft has surged, with Indian carriers proactively placing orders for over 1,000 aircraft set to be delivered over the next 10-15 years. This growth underscores the scheme’s effectiveness in creating a diverse fleet, ranging from helicopters and seaplanes to jet planes, actively serving on RCS routes.