Demand to include SGRDJ International Airport in UDAN-III scheme – Airport not listed in UDAN-II Regional Connectivity Scheme routes

Sameep Singh Gumtala

Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), city-based NGO has demanded inclusion of Shri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport Amritsar in UDAN-III scheme. UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) aims to specifically boost regional connectivity along with making air travel affordable for common man. Incidentally, airports like Chandigarh, Bhatinda, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Adampur have been operationalized under UDAN-I and UDAN-II phase with connectivity of these airports to cities like Shimla, Jammu, Kullu, Dharamsala and New Delhi whereas Amritsar airport did not list anywhere on either of the two phases where Ministry of Civil aviation had awarded 325 routes in UDAN Phase-II scheme.

Sameep Singh Gumtala, Overseas Secretary, Amritsar Vikas Manch stated, it is disheartening that despite achieving top rank in terms of passenger percentage growth for 2017-18 financial year amongst all International airports in India, Ministry of Civil aviation ignored Amritsar under phase-II of RCS. He said the holy city of Amritsar is visited by more than 1.5 lakhs tourist every day and over 2.5 lakhs on weekends. There is a growing aspiration for air travel to Amritsar from tourists visiting nearby destinations and both state & centre government should take steps to make holy city as a self sustainable tourism destination through such schemes proactively.

Yogesh Kamra, additional secretary, Amritsar Vikas Manch said Amritsar now being one the top-rated tourism destinations of the world cannot afford to miss upcoming phase-III of UDAN RCS. He said sole purpose of this scheme was to enable financially-viable airfare flight routes to connect underserved and unserved airports in smaller cities with each other as well as with well served airports in bigger cities by using “Viability Gap Funding” (VGF), wherever needed.

Kamra stated, this scheme would have helped Amritsar to be connected to nearby tourist destinations like Dharamsala, Shimla, Leh, Kullu, Dehradun, Jammu, Jaipur etc. Amritsar airport not only needs a boost to its regional connectivity but also deserves to be made as a preferred airport for new domestic and International flights for North India after Delhi. He said airline operators should look beyond Delhi & Mumbai and connect Amritsar airport to unserved cities with good demand like Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Goa, Patna, Hyderabad, Nagpur etc. Kamra said, it makes more sense for airlines as well to focus on monopoly routes rather than competing amongst themselves on limited 1-2 legacy routes.