The central government on Wednesday awarded contracts to 15 companies to operate flight and chopper services under the second round of its air regional connectivity "Udan" scheme.
Accordingly, state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI), the implementing agency of the scheme, issued "Letter of Awards" for 90 proposals involving around 325 regional connectivity routes which were received under the second round of RCS-Udan.
Subsequently, under the second phase flight operations are expected to connect destinations like Kargil, Darbhanga, Pakyong (Gangtok) and Cooch Behar.
"Udan-II has addressed the problem of (air connectivity in the) difficult areas (which are) basically areas with hilly tracks, where road connectivity is low or probably has no train connectivity," Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju said, at an event held here.
"... We will connect 29 unserved airports, 13 underserved airports to 36 served airports and 31 helipads. This is the first time that helicopter (services) are coming under Udan."
According to the minister, Udan-II will connect 43 airports and helipads in priority sectors like the north-east and the hill states.
Raju informed that 17 applicants, including airline and chopper companies, had sent their proposals for a total of 502 routes in the second phase of the scheme.
In total 73 unserved or underserved airports and helipads will be provided services through the second phase.
The ministry awarded new routes to SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways, Turbo Megha Airways and Pawan Hans among others.
Low-cost carrier SpiceJet's CMD Ajay Singh said: "We see tremendous potential in the routes that we have been awarded today and look forward to beginning operations very soon."
SpiceJet has been awarded 17 proposals and 20 new sectors under the second round of bidding.
In the first phase, contracts to five companies were awarded to operate flight services on 128 routes to 70 airports.
In April 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged-off the first Udan flight under RCS on the Shimla-Delhi sector.
Since 2017, flights under Udan-1 have commenced from 16 RCS airports.