India's first seaplane service to begin 31 Oct: From frequency to ticket cost, what you need to know

India's first seaplane service in Gujarat is set to begin from 31 October, the anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with the aim of providing air connectivity from the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad to the Statue of Unity in Kevadia.

The service will be operated by Spicejet Airlines.

The Gujarat government had earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Airports Authority of India to start services in July.

In August, an official press release stated that the frequency of the seaplane service is likely to be eight flights a day (four arrivals and four departures).

The release had also said that the ticket is likely to cost around Rs 4,800 per person.

What is a seaplane?

A seaplane is the amalgamation of the properties of speed and utility properties of an aeroplane and a boat, respectively. With fixed wings, a seaplane is equipped to take off and land on water.

The two types of seaplane are 'flying boats' and 'floatplanes'.

As per a report in Indian Express, "The bottom of a flying boat’s fuselage is its main landing gear. This is usually supplemented with smaller floats near the wingtips, called wing or tip floats. The hull of a flying boat holds the crew, passengers, and cargo; it has many features in common with the hull of a ship or a boat."

 Who will run the service?

SpiceJet, which has reportedly signed a contracted with a French company that is manufacturing the seaplanes, will be using a 19-seater plane which will be able to carry 14 passengers.

For India's first project being developed in Gujarat, the Kevadia terminal is likely to be built over 0.51 acres in the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd premise in the Panchmuli lake area, as per the report. The Kevadia terminal is 200 kilometres away from Ahmedabad.

The terminal is proposed to have "modern amenities", and a daily footfall of 200 passengers is expected by the government, the report added.

“There will be four flights a day between Ahmedabad and Kevadia on each side — which means four arrivals and four departures. The ticket price per person will be about Rs.4,800. Anyone wishing to cut down on their travel time between Ahmedabad and Kevadia which currently takes about four hours one way can do so by turning it into a day’s trip. Return tickets can be booked on the seaplane to ensure that the passengers can return to Ahmedabad from Kevadia during the day. The journey by seaplane will be about one hour,” Indian Express quoted an airline official as saying.

Approvals still pending: Report

But there could be a stumbling block.

On 19 September, The Wire reported that authorities helming the project have applied for environmental clearances but the approvals were still pending.

"If proper procedure is followed under the rules of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), they will remain pending for quite a while longer, making the start of work on these projects at this time a violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006," The Wire report said.

In addition to the issue of environmental clearance, the project drew attention when the state government "banished" for six months ahead of the date of inauguration activist Lakhan Musafir who had taken an active part in the movement against the Sardar Sarovar dam.

An activist from the Narmada district, who did not wish to be named, was quoted by Deccan Herald as saying, "Everyone who has been participating in agitations is under the police's watch. We fear that in a few days, we all will be detained."

With inputs from agencies

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