Route Dispersal Guidelines
The core philosophy behind the route dispersal guidelines is that via these, the government makes the airline operators accept the social obligation to fly to the northeast and other remote parts of the country. The route dispersal guidelines mandate the airlines to fly unviable routes connecting cities in the north-eastern region, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
The DGCA had first framed and issued the guidelines in 1994, whereby, all routes were divided into three categories viz. Category – I, II and III.
Route categorization was based on traditionally surplus generating routes (Category – I), loss making routes (Category – II) and the remaining routes (Category – III).
- Category – Iroutes were largely inter-metro routes and generated surplus that cross subsidized losses largely on Category – II routes that served regions of difficult terrain and destination in remote areas.
- Category – IIroutes included routes connecting airports in North-Eastern region, Jammu and Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep.
- Category – IIIroutes were routes other than those included in Category – I and Category – II.
It was obligatory on the part of scheduled airlines to deploy on Category – II, IIA and III routes, a specified percentage of capacity deployed in Category – I routes as per the following:
- On Category – II routes, at least 10% of the capacity deployed on routes in Category – I.
- On Category – IIA routes, at least 10% of the capacity deployed on routes in Category – II.
- On Category – III routes, at least 50% of the capacity deployed on routes in Category – I.
Rationale behind Route Dispersal Guidelines
It’s obvious that if there were no route dispersal guidelines, no airline operator would like to fly to unviable routes connecting cities in the north-eastern region, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
Demand to scrap route dispersal guidelines
There have been demands from the airlines to scrap these guidelines as they force the airlines to deploy flights in commercially not so viable routes; and this balloons their expenditures. The UPA government had started the process to overhaul the RDGs with an idea to re-categorisation of 25-odd cities, changing the geographical spread of the RDG. Domestic airlines have been seeking relief in terms of the amount of mandatory flying required to meet the guidelines.
RDGs and Draft National Civil Aviation Policy 2015
The draft National Civil Aviation Policy 2015 does not propose to abolish the Route Dispersal Guidelines. The document proposes that more routes will be added up in the Category I (metro) routes as destinations more than 700 km away domestically with annual traffic of 500,000 passengers will also become a part of it. As is the case presently, the airlines will need to deploy at least 10% of the capacity on the metro routes in the North Eastern region, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep (Category-II routes). The airlines will need to take the permission of the civil aviation ministry to withdraw existing operations in “north east region, Islands and Ladakh.”