How Mopa airport is changing Goa’s aviation story

Last week, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) to the first Goa-based airline FLY91
GAME CHANGER: FLY91's first aircraft at the Mopa airport in Goa.
GAME CHANGER: FLY91's first aircraft at the Mopa airport in Goa.Photo: Gomantak Times

If one were to give Goa a tagline, what would it be? It would purportedly be ‘sun, sand and sea’ or ‘every hour in Goa is happy hour’.

These do define the coastal state, but today Goa is more layered. It’s moved beyond the beaches and wild parties to develop as a centre for arts, literature, culture and film festivals.

Lately, the tiny state has seen the mushrooming of several alcoholic beverage units that cater not just to the captive market but even to those outside the state.

GAME CHANGER: FLY91's first aircraft at the Mopa airport in Goa.
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Early this week, the breezy state was swathed in one more layer. It became the headquarter of an airline for the first time.

Regional carrier FLY91 was granted Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday under the Regional Air Connectivity Scheme (RCS)-UDAN. The airline will be based in Goa.

Mopa airport, which began operations in January last year, is changing Goa’s tourism game in many ways. Its huge capacity has been able to swiftly absorb the recent upsurge in air traffic into Goa.

This means Just Udo Aviation Pvt Ltd, which operates FLY91, has been allotted a night-parking slot for its ATR 72-600 at the new Manohar International Airport in Mopa. The airline will operate its first flight out of Goa and its last flight will fly into the State.

In fact, Mopa airport, which began operations in January last year, is changing Goa’s tourism game in many ways. Its huge capacity has been able to swiftly absorb the recent upsurge in air traffic into Goa.

GAME CHANGER: FLY91's first aircraft at the Mopa airport in Goa.
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The state’s aviation journey has come a long way since it operated less the five flights a day out of a quaint airport building. The state’s old airport at Dabolim, along with Mopa, today, handles more than 130 flights per day without a glitch.

The Central government’s RCS-Udan, which aims to enhance regional connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development, may see other airlines also making Goa their hub.

The Central government’s RCS-Udan, which aims to enhance regional connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development, may see other airlines also making Goa their hub. The scheme is targeted at airports in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns to improve their operational efficiency.

One of the routes allocated to FLY91 is Sindhudurg in Maharashtra.

GAME CHANGER: FLY91's first aircraft at the Mopa airport in Goa.
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Tourism experts have been calling for this idyllic destination in the neighbouring state to be developed as an alternative to Goa. Currently, tourist inflow, mostly domestic, into it is a trickle. They travel by Konkan Railways.

Sindhudurg or Chipi Airport handles one flight a day operated by state-owned Alliance Air. FLY91 may be the second airline to fly to the airport, which took several years to be built because not many were convinced about its viability.

Sindhudurg or Chipi Airport handles one flight a day operated by state-owned Alliance Air. FLY91 may be the second airline to fly to the airport.

Will the possible launch of a flight by a new regional airline alter Sindhudurg’s dynamics as a beach destination? Very unlikely. It may not happen in the near future because the coastal destination has a handful of hotels catering to budget travellers. It may also not lessen the stress of overtourism on Goa.

The possibility of the launch of a flight by a private airline to Sindhudurg airport is good news but it has to be seen whether it will remain airborne for long. Close to 50 per cent of the routes initiated under the Udan scheme have been terminated as they were not commercially viable.

GAME CHANGER: FLY91's first aircraft at the Mopa airport in Goa.
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As per the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and private reports of the 493 routes (as of October 2023), including water aerodromes and nine helipads, only 225 routes were operational till late last year. A large number of routes allocated under the government's regional air connectivity scheme were shut down because of underdeveloped airport infrastructure and low demand.

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