Over 150 new shopping and food outlets have come up in the last six years across 74 Indian airports. This has benefited millions of first time travellers who took to the skies as well as several new entrepreneurs and established businesses who have set up brand new outlets at airports. All this was possible due to the ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) of the Union Government through its flagship scheme UDAN – Udega Desh ka Aam Nagrik.
In a tweet on Friday 28 April 2023, Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Ministry of Civil Aviation for this massive achievement.
The first UDAN flight took to Shimla from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on 27 April 2017. Thereafter, 473 routes have been added connecting 74 domestic and international airports in India.
Smaller airports connect bigger airports (and their cities) thereby making it possible for enhanced business opportunities. Leisure travellers on the other hand are now able to visit smaller, offbeat locations such as Kangra, Ladakh, Gangtok and so on.
This has propelled domestic tourism and therefore the commercial opportunities. Alongside, it has also created new retail opportunities at these smaller airports, hence generating direct and indirect employment to thousands of Indians.
The airfare for UDAN flights for less than 90 minutes of flight time has been capped at ₹2,500. This is to ensure short duration flights do not fleece passengers and thereby making the entire effort of Regional Connectivity Scheme a major success. The Finance Minister in her Annual Budget speech announced on 1 February 2024 that 50 new airports and waterdromes would be facilitated this year.
There are 135+ operational airports in India and most of them were laid during the World War 2 in the 1940s. However, a majority of them were used for limited military purposes and remained in disarray.
With the impetus on privatisation of airports, over 70 new airports have been commercialised. Existing terminal buildings have been spruced up and several greenfield airports (new ones) have come up / coming up across India.
The domestic travel retail business size in India is estimated to be around ₹2,500 Cr pa. Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi Airports together contribute almost 60% of this revenue while the smaller airports are yet to build on this opportunity.