As many as three airlines, including state-run Alliance Air, have bid for operating a dedicated regional air carrier for the north-eastern states.
“Three airlines have participated in the tender for the regional airline,” said Minister for Development for North-Eastern Region (DoNER) Mani Shankar Aiyer here.
Apart from Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, two other companies — Universal Empire and Ace Airlines — have submitted offers to run the new airline.
The winning bidder will be eligible for subsidies from the North Eastern Council. The new dedicated regional airline is expected to start operations by the end of this year.
Guwahati will be the hub of the regional airline. At present, there are 11 operational airports in the region, including Dibrugarh, Tezpur, Jorhat, Silchar, Dimapur, Imphal, Agartala, Aizawl and Bagdogra.
At least 12 new airports are expected to be operationalised in the region by the end of 2008 and 25 new airports would come up over the period of the 11th Five Year Plan. The Ministry of DoNER is aiming for as many as 400 flights every month internally connecting the region by the end of 2009.
In August last year, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had announced a number of subsidies for airlines interested in operating in the regional space under a separate regional air carrier permit.
The carriers must have a minimum start-up capital of Rs 30 crore if operating three aircraft with a take-off mass of over 40,000 kg.
Those operating below this threshold need a paid-up capital of Rs 12 crore, and have to add Rs 4 crore into the paid-up capital for each additional aircraft, subject to a maximum of Rs 20 crore.
Aircraft with a take-off mass of less than 40,000 kg are not required to pay landing charges at airports. These regional carriers can operate flights from airports in their designated region to all airports in any other region, except metro airports but they are allowed to connect to metros in the region they operate in.
Universal Empire, floated by NRI K Balachandran Nair, already has plans to float the regional carrier under the brand Surya Air and invest Rs 150 crore to start operations by October this year. Initially, it would operate 19-seater Beechcraft planes in the sector.
Last year, the group signed a technical deal with Nepal’s Buddha Airlines to kick-start the airline.
Alliance Air plans to launch the regional operations with six 70-seater regional jets. Currently, it operates flights to 24 destinations with its 11 B737-200 and four ATR-72 aircraft.