CHENNAI: Travellers will soon be able to fly from Chennai to Vellore and Thanjavur on 70-80 seater planes as two airlines have bagged rights to start services on the routes under phase 2 of regional connectivity scheme, Udan.
Union minister of civil aviation Ashok Gajapati Raju awarded the routes to the airlines which won bids at a function held in Delhi on Wednesday, reports The Times of India.
SpiceJet will start services on the Chennai-Thanjavur route, while Turbo Aviation will operate from Vellore to the city. SpiceJet has already started operations on the Hyderabad-Puducherry route under phase 1 of the project and is gearing up to launch flights to Hosur and Salem.
Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet said in a statement, “We see tremendous potential on the routes that we have been awarded and look forward to beginning operations very soon.” SpiceJet had placed an order for 50 Q400s last year, deliveries for which will begin later this year.
Thanjavur airstrip is in use by the Indian Air Force and the ministry of civil aviation has held talks with its chief regarding exchange of land needed at the air strip for commercial operations.
A senior official of Airports Authority of India (AAI) said AAI would now build a small terminal for passenger operations and install other basic facilities. “There is an air traffic control facility at the airstrip used by the air force. Some work has already begun to prepare the land and terminal at the site,” he added.
Vellore has a runway that can handle 70-seater planes. However, it would require upgrades as it has been lying unused for a long time now. AAI has begun work to prepare the airport for flights. “The work will be completed by the time the airline is ready to start flights,” said an AAI official.
Under phase 1 of the Udan scheme, Chennai-Salem services planned by Hyderabad-based Trujet is yet to take off, while flights to Hosur has hit a stumbling block as Bengaluru airport is yet to issue no-objection certificate for operations. Similarly, services on the Neyveli route have not taken off yet due to poor demand, since it is in close proximity to Puducherry which has an airport. Authorities said phase 2 connectivity would pick up fast, as established airlines have bagged majority of the routes.