While more people from tier 2 and 3 towns can benefit from the next phase of the regional connectivity scheme, it needs some tweaking to generate enough enthusiasm from airlines and stakeholders.
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India’s Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has inaugurated UDAN 5.2, a new phase of the regional connectivity scheme “Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik” to improve last-mile connectivity in remote and underserved regions with small aircraft, specifically those with 1A (less than nine seats) and Category 1 (less than 20 seats).
“Today we have awarded 22 routes, which underlines the fact that air travel facility is being made available to citizens living in remote areas,” Scindia said during the 5th Helicopter & Small Aircraft Summit held at Khajuraho in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Following four successful rounds of the scheme, the Ministry of Civil Aviation introduced UDAN 5.1 in May tailored to focus on helicopter routes.
More than 12.3 million passengers have traveled on UDAN flights since the inception of the scheme, according to a statement from the ministry. Till now, 148 airports, including nine heliports and two water aerodromes, have been developed and operationalized.
Launched in October 2016, UDAN aims to make air travel more affordable and accessible to a wider range of citizens by capping airfare on regional routes and providing financial incentives to airlines and airport operators. It encourages airlines to operate on underserved routes that may not be financially viable otherwise.
India Becomes Australia’s Fourth-Largest Inbound Tourism Market
Australia hosted 375,500 Indian visitors in the 12-month period ended May 2023, surpassing pre-Covid levels, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This makes India the fourth-largest inbound tourism market for the country. Indian tourists spent approximately $1.35 billion in the financial year 2023, a 16% increase compared to financial year 2019.
“India has improved its ranks among Australia’s source markets, and reached a milestone of emerging as the first market to recover to pre-Covid levels,” said Nishant Kashikar, country manager for India and Gulf at Tourism Australia.
Direct flights on the India-Australia route have more than tripled to 22 a week versus seven flights per week prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Melbourne featured as the preferred arrival destination for Indians at 45.8% during the period under review, followed by Sydney with a 33.8% share and Perth attracting 8.1% of globetrotters from India.
SpiceJet Out of Surveillance Regime of Aviation Regulator
In a respite for SpiceJet, aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has removed the budget airline from its enhanced surveillance regime. The airline, which has been facing multiple headwinds, was placed under enhanced surveillance recently after it had reported incidents of technical glitches during flights between April and July 2022.
The regulator conducted 51 spot checks across 11 locations in the country on the airline’s fleet of Boeing B737 and Bombardier DHC Q-400 aircraft. It also inspected a total of 23 aircraft and made 95 observations.
“The findings were of routine nature and were not considered significant by the DGCA. Suitable maintenance action was taken by the airline to address the findings in accordance with DGCA guidelines. As a consequence, SpiceJet has been taken off the enhanced surveillance regime by DGCA,” the regulator said.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts Ventures Into Greater Noida
Best Western Hotels & Resorts has collaborated with Delhi-based real estate developer I-Thum World to bring a 165-room Best Western I-Thums Galleria in Greater Noida in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
“Greater Noida has seen tremendous growth in recent years and has emerged as a promising business and residential destination. We are pleased with our collaboration with I-Thum World to offer a well-appointed and comfortable hospitality venue to the city,” said Atul Jain, chief operating officer of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at Best Western Hotels.
The company recently launched Aiden by Best Western @ Vagator Goa. Its boutique-like Aiden brand is primarily a conversion brand to meet a need in the market for owners who have a mid-scale or upper-midscale product and want to reposition the property to command higher room rates.
Parliamentary Panel Suggests Setting Up Special Airline Wing to Deal With Unruly Flyers
A parliamentary standing committee for transport, tourism, and culture has recommended a special airline wing to deal with cases related to unruly passengers onboard. Currently, pilots and crew members have to attend the court and visit police stations for prosecuting the unruly passenger, the panel said.
The ministry may also coordinate with the concerned departments to ensure that any victims of unruly passengers are not required to physically visit distant police stations and courts in pursuance of legal remedy in such cases.
The committee recommended that aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation may enforce a zero-tolerance policy for incidents of unruly behavior by passengers and strict implementation of the ‘No-Fly List’ may be ensured. In the past few months, there have been numerous untoward incidents involving verbal and physical altercations either among passengers or between passengers and the flight crew.
Visa, Adani Group Partner to Offer Travel Co-Branded Cards
Digital payments company Visa has collaborated with Indian conglomerate Adani Group to introduce branded cards for travelers. By leveraging Adani’s seven airports and online travel services, Visa will be able to offer exclusive rewards, discounts and other associated brand benefits while expanding its reach across a wide customer base.
Adani Airports has ambitious plans to bid for more airports across India, with the aim of becoming a leading airport operator. Among the significant airport developments in progress is a sprawling 2,866-acre airport in Navi Mumbai, projected to handle 90 million passengers by 2036.
Currently, India boasts several travel co-branded cards, including the ICICI-MakeMyTrip card, SBI and Yatra’s offerings, and the Axis Bank-Vistara credit card, among others. Most recently, IDFC First Bank, Club Vistara and Mastercard have collaborated to launch a travel credit card to meet the ever-changing demands of new-age travelers.
Zone by The Park Gopalpur Opens Doors
Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels has launched a 40-room Zone by The Park Gopalpur, located at the Gopalpur beach in the eastern state of Odisha.
“We would like to thank our partners Specadi Resorts for partnering to bring Zone to Odisha,” said Vikas Ahluwalia, general manager and national head of Zone by The Park Hotels.
Last month, the company launched a 38-room Zone by The Park Pathankot in the north Indian state of Punjab. The hotel connects travelers to Dharamshala and Dalhousie, which are popular hill towns in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Park Hotels is set to reportedly float a $181 million initial public offering by September this year.
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Photo credit: UDAN aims to make air travel more affordable and accessible. kyran low / Kerala Backwaters, Alappuzha, India