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Indian airline SpiceJet announced a new seaplane venture to boost travel amid the aviation demand downturn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the approval for 18 seaplane routes, the budget carrier announced the start of the country's first seaplane service from Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujarat starting October 31.

The new seaplane venture will be under a fully-owned subsidiary named Spice Shuttle using a 15-seat Twin Otter 300 aircraft made by de Havilland Canada.

According to a report from the Hindustan Times, the seaplane flights between Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity will take 30 minutes each way. SpiceJet Shuttle will operate two daily seaplane flights on the route.

In a statement, SpiceJet said the move would revolutionize the country's regional connectivity as seaplanes can take-off and land on small water bodies and short airstrips.

“Our seaplane service between the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and Statue of Unity in Kevadia will cut down travel time to just about half an hour and will be a unique, exhilarating flying experience that would boost travel and tourism. Infrastructural challenges have been a key deterrent for providing air connectivity to smaller towns and cities,” said SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh said. Singh added: “With the ability to land on a small water body, seaplanes are the perfect flying machines that can effectively connect the remotest parts of India into the mainstream aviation network without the high cost of building airports and runways.”

SpiceJet has previously conducted seaplane trials in 2017 on flights between Nagpur and Guwati, India. Among the 18 routes approved to be operated by the seaplanes along with the Ahmedabad-Kevadia flights include Agatti-Minicoy and Agatti-Kavaratti. It is part of the India's UDAN regional connectivity plan to encourage more domestic flights from unserved and underserved airports while keeping fares affordable.

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