Kerala in a spot over UDAN

The State is in a spot over the decision of Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) to pull out from the bandwagon of regional flights under the Central government’s Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme after inking the agreement.

Unmindful of the decision of the board of directors of KIAL chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here on June 28 to pull out from the scheme, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued advertisements on Sunday on the regional connectivity and 26 flights to be operated from the upcoming fourth international airport to 12 routes.

The advertisement titled “New Aviation Horizon in Kerala under UDAN” highlighting the salient features of the scheme is a pointer to the State that the road to wriggle out from the agreement is not going to be a smooth affair.

The MoU was signed in January this year between the Centre and State government and the Airports Authority of India for inter and intra-State services from Kannur.

Based on the MoU, IndiGo and Spicejet announced flights in Kannur-Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hubli, Goa, Delhi and back after completing the bid formalities. Aviation sources said the Ministry faced pressure from the two domestic airlines that were in the process of procuring aircraft for the operations. The Ministry was also apprehensive of more airports opting out of the school. Shirdi airport in Maharashtra was the first to withdraw from UDAN.

The chances of litigation over the inability to operate domestic flights to Kannur are also high side as the two domestic carriers is not likely to take things lightly.

Official sources said the decision of KIAL board had been communicated to the civil aviation wing of the Transport Department. It is learnt that KIAL board decision had not been communicated to the Ministry even after 18 days and letter in this regard was likely to be forwarded only this week.

KIAL had pulled out from the UDAN as other domestic carriers will not be able to operate flights in Kannur-Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Chennai, Bengalaru, Hubli, Goa, Delhi and back as IndiGo and Spicejet will have three-year exclusive monoply in the seven sectors under UDAN scheme and Viability Gap Funding of the State government.

Another reason cited for the pullout is that KIAL, that will operate the airport, will not get any revenue from the flights operated under UDAN as it cannot impose landing and parking charge and terminal navigation landing carges.

Besides, the State has also been asked to lower the VAT on Aviation Turbine Fuel to 1% or less, besides providing security and fire services free of cost and electricity, water and other utilities at substantially concessional rates to UDAN flights.

The issue will figure in a meeting to be held between an all-party delegation led by the Chief Minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi this week.

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