The Indian Government has approved amphibious aircraft flights in the Nicobar & Andaman Islands to help improve tourism and boost transport links between the capital Port Blair and surrounding islands.

Indian Civil Aviation minister Suresh Prabhu said the seaplanes will operate on 13 new routes recently approved by the government in the Bay of Bengal archipelago.

Prabhu told the Hindustan Times that by January 2, the government had received 111 bids from 15 airlines interested in operating amphibious flights from 13 waterports. Five bidders were locals from Andaman while the rest came from Gujarat and Kerala.

The flight operations permits will be awarded in June. The promotion of amphibous flights is a key component of the regional connectivity project known as Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN).

Unnamed government sources told business website Money Control that local airline Andaman Airways (Pvt) Limited and SpiceJet (SG, Delhi Int'l) have been selected to operate flights between Port Blair, Havelock Island, Long Island, Neil Island, and Hutbay Island in Andaman and Car Nicobar in Nicobar.

Spicejet is the fourth largest Indian airline by domestic passenger volumes. It recently began 10-seater Quest Aircraft Kodiak amphibian trials between Girgaum Chowpatty and Mumbai Int'l. According to The Hindustan Times, it aims to buy five of the turboprops from Japan's Setouchi Holdings and begin commercial seaplane operations within a year.

For its part, Andaman Airways (Port Blair) is a local Andaman-based start-up carrier that it is in the process of completing its certification with the Indian authorities. Instead of amphibians, it has indicated plans to use Bell Helicopters and ATR42s. Its promoters have experience with groundhandling facilities at Port Blair airport.

Flight operations are subject to approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Airports Authority of India. Amphibious aircraft flights are more common in the Maldives where they have been used to promote tourism.