• To boost regional connectivity, government may allow regional airlines to fly with one aircraft

    In an attempt to make it easier for airlines that fly regional routes, the government is likely to allow them to fly for two years with just one aircraft.

    This will be part of aviation rules being formulated for scheduled commercial airlines — carriers that will also operate on regional routes under the government’s regional connectivity plans that aim at flying on such routes at the rate of Rs 2,500 per hour of flight.

    “Unlike rules for regional and national airlines, which have to increase their fleet size to three and five aircraft, respectively, within a period of one year, the scheduled commuter airlines will be allowed two years to increase their fleet size. The extra one year will provide that comfort level to these new airlines,” said an aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified.

    These rules are being formulated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation as part of the rules that will govern scheduled commuters airlines. The government, in June this year, had approved a regional connectivity scheme that aims to connect unserved airports in the country through flights with fixed fares atRs 2,500 for per hour of flight.

    Analysts believe that the government needs to also work on ensuring lower lease rentals for scheduled commuter airlines.

    “Other than the traffic risk in unused regional airports, potential RCS operators also face non-availability or high cost of leased aircraft. Leasing cost can be as high as 25-30% of the total operating cost of a small aircraft. Given this scenario, lowering the entry barrier and allowing single aircraft owners to register as Scheduled Commuter Operator (SCO) under RCS is a winwin proposition. The idle capacity available with NSOPs in India can be hitherto utilised to connect India’s interiors and the owners can earn additional revenue through the RCS subsidy, code shares and seat trading,” said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG.

    Business Aircraft Operator’s Association of India (BAOA), however, says that the government should also ensure that the non-scheduled airport operators are allowed to fly on regional routes and simpler rules should be made to allow airlines to convert to scheduled commuter airlines category.

    A senior aviation ministry official said he has received a lot of queries from people, who want to launch scheduled commuter airlines. “I have received a lot of queries from business people, who want to launch new airlines. I would not like to name them now,” said the official, who did not want to be identified.

    Meanwhile, the government is also looking at launching first set of regional flights through Air India and SpiceJet, as these two already have suitable aircraft in their fleet to launch the project and provide air connectivity to towns and small cities. Both these airlines have 70-seater aircraft in their fleet. John Lynch Jersey

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