Alliance Air to resume daily flights between Delhi and Shimla on September 26

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The government-owned regional airline, Alliance Air, on Wednesday announced the resumption of flights on the Delhi-Shimla route from September 26.

The decision comes nearly 30 months after operations on the route – launched under the regional connectivity scheme ‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’ – came to a halt.

The airline will restart daily flights on its brand new 48-seater ATR 42-600. The resumption was earlier planned for September 6, but was postponed due to “bad weather conditions,” according to the airline.

“The last flight on the route was on March 21, 2020, but was discontinued due to COVID-19 and the expiry of lease for the ATR 42 aircraft. Now we have acquired a brand new ATR 42-600 plane,” an airline official said.

The flight will operate with a load penalty (restricted number of passengers) as the Jubbarhatti airport in Shimla has a table-top runway, which is also short (1189 metres). The Delhi-Shimla flight will accommodate 35 passengers, and the Shimla-Delhi service will see a maximum of 25 passengers. In the past, the airline had also written to the Himachal Pradesh government for additional financial support to be able to mitigate losses on the route due to the penalty.

Five years ago, on April 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the regional connectivity scheme (RCS), also known as UDAN, by flagging off the first flight from Shimla to Delhi. Until July 2022, a total of 425 routes have been opened by the government, but not all are operational at present.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, in its report tabled in Parliament in January, noted that of the “94 RCS-UDAN routes that have completed three-year tenure till 30.11.2021, only 22 routes are in operation.” In other words, only one out of four routes survived after three years.

Under the RCS or UDAN scheme, an airline is required to sell 50% of its seats at a subsidised rate of ₹ 2,500 per hour of flight in lieu of which it gets financial support from the government. The subsidy period is three years, which can also be extended. No other airline is allowed to operate on the route for a period of three years in order to guard against competition. Alliance Air’s Shimla flight continues to be under RCS subsidy, according to the above quoted official.