In a bid to enhance regional connectivity, the Gujarat government is going to connect smaller cities with the major airports in Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Under the Regional Connecting Scheme (RCS), the government has initiated the process of inviting tenders to start new flight operations across 11 designated routes from Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Among these seven routes will be from Ahmedabad to destinations such as Keshod, Porbandar, Rajkot, Amreli and Bhavnagar.
After the opening of the new airport in Rajkot, this will possibly pave the way for the first flight from Ahmedabad to the city. As there are no airstrips at Ambaji and the Statue of Unity (SOU) for tourism development, a helicopter service will be provided. The government plans to offer Re 1 per seat for each sector through the Viability Funding Gap (VGF) programme to airlines commencing services on specified routes. This payment will be capped at Rs 5,000 and will be applicable for 50 percent of the aircraft’s total seats.
Notably, True Jet’s flight between Ahmedabad and Porbandar was discontinued. Presently, only Star Air is operating flights from Ahmedabad to Bhuj as part of the RCS initiative.
As part of the ongoing initiative, the upcoming deadline for submitting tenders for the three-sector flights from Vadodara airport, namely Porbandar, Bhuj and Keshod, is set for September 2. Notably, Keshod has been non-operational for a period of time since its conversion into an airport.
To qualify for consideration, airlines are obliged to offer service on the designated route at least twice a week and maintain this frequency for a minimum of two years. Furthermore, the aircraft deployed for these operations must not exceed 20 years in age.
An essential facet of this service rollout is the establishment of an online ticket booking portal, which the agency will need to facilitate.
Stringent compliance with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) regulations is obligatory for all aspects of the air service. A dedicated team will embark on a comprehensive survey of eight airstrips across the state to assess their viability and alignment with the proposed plans.
To facilitate the expansion, the government has allocated land for new airstrips at Ankleshwar, Dhordo, Rajpipla, Rajula and Dahod. Obstruction limit surveys have commenced in these areas. Moreover, a visiting team from the Airports Authority of India is anticipated to inspect the airstrips soon, including the three previously proposed airstrips in Mehsana, Mandvi and Amreli.
The travel from Ahmedabad to Rajkot, spanning 225 kilometres, could save passengers up to two and a half hours compared to the conventional luxury bus or car travel that consumes five to five and a half hours. Despite the requisite two-hour advance arrival for air travel, a short 30-minute flight on a small jet or approximately 40 minutes on a single-engine plane, significantly compresses the travel time and enhances accessibility.
In conjunction with the proposed flight operations from Ahmedabad, the plan also encompasses the introduction of helicopter services. These helicopters will play a pivotal role in providing access to various routes including Keshod, Porbandar, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Rajkot are crucial for extending service to Ambaji and the Statue of Unity.