Surprising as it may seem, but Star Air – the Bengaluru based operator with an all E-145 fleet has launched a new route amidst the current situation! The airline started flying between Ahmedabad and Kishangarh (IATA: KQH) from 1st June 2020. The airline had won this route under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik).
Kishangarh airport was operationalized on 8th October 2018 when Spicejet launched operations from New Delhi. The airport serves the important towns of Pushkar and Ajmer in Rajasthan which are both within a distance of 50 kilometres from the airport. The small terminal caters to 150 passengers an hour and has 6 check-in counters.
Spicejet and Star Air won the bid for operations on this route in UDAN 3.0 – the third round of bidding under the scheme. Spicejet had started operations between Kishangarh and Ahmedabad in March 2019.
Star Air also operates to Kishangarh from Indore. The new flights will operate as below
OG125 AMD1105 – 1215KQH 1,3,5,7
OG126 KQH1255 – 1400AMD 1,3,5,7
What would have prompted Star Air to make this move?
Air travel re-started in India after a two month hiatus on 25th May 2020 but it has come back with restrictions on fares as well as capacity. The government has tried to push for RCS-UDAN flights amidst this restriction to ensure that un-served and under-served routes are not left out.
The airline gets Viability Gap Funding (VGF) – much needed income in current times. In addition to this, there are other benefits as part of the scheme like waiver or discount in charges related to landing and fuel. What also works in favour of the operator is that RCS-UDAN already has a fare cap in place and does not fall under the current lower and upper ceiling of fare based on flying time as declared by the ministry.
Star Air also benefits from operating a 50 seat aircraft in current times when it has lesser seats to fill up and also gets government subsidy for operating the route. The trip cost is also lower for the aircraft, though the cost per seat is higher. However, routes like these have lower demand thus requiring smaller aircraft.
Star Air – interestingly, owns its aircraft and does not have them on lease. This makes the airline stay away from monthly lease costs and focus purely on the cost of operation to recover their expenses.
Star Air started operations in January 2019 and currently operates a fleet of 3 Embraer E-145 jets which seat 50 in 1 x 2 configuration. The airline has bid and won many RCS-UDAN routes which include one to Hindon – on the outskirts of Delhi.
As government works with the airlines to re-start more routes and frequencies within the gambit of current rules, it will be interesting to see how airlines look at RCS – UDAN in new flight. Go Air, Vistara and AirAsia India do not operate any RCS – UDAN routes.