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Tuesday, 21 July, 2020, 11 : 45 AM [IST]

Resumption in domestic flights leads to surge in demand for private charters

Private jet operators who took a major hit during the prolonged coronavirus-induced lockdown are seeing renewed interest for flights to leisure destinations, as well as between COVID-19 hotspots, despite the steep cost. Affluent customers, who are skittish about travelling in commercial airliners, are opting for such customised modes of air travel, Rhik Kundu reports in Mint.

With the easing of curbs on domestic flight operations, queries have surged at the top private jet operators as well as bookings for flights to leisure destinations such as Goa, Dehradun, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in the domestic travel circuit. The top international destinations include Dubai, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The private jet operators are also seeing huge interest for travel from metropolitan cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata, most of which are covid-19 hotspots, and allow only a limited number of commercial flights each day.

New Delhi-based JetSetGo, a platform for private jet and helicopters, is getting a lot of queries and bookings between sectors such as Kolkata-Ahmedabad, Mumbai-Hyderabad, Mumbai-Kolkata, Delhi-Pune, Kolkata-Ahmedabad, Vijayawada-Delhi, Mumbai-Shamshabad, since the government allowed resumption of domestic flights from May.

“For the very first time, we are seeing requests coming from people who aren’t necessarily very wealthy or would not travel on business or first class. Mainly new customers are reaching out to us largely because of health risk concerns or just getting where they need to be," said Kanika Tekriwal, founder of New Delhi-based JetSetGo. 

Tekriwal said her company gets nearly 20 inquiries a day, with 70% of them being new customers, compared to 30-40 inquiries a day prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

About half of the inquiries are for international flights to bring back family and friends stranded in other countries.
For international inquiries, a large number are from parents whose college-going children are stuck in countries such as Australia, Singapore and England. A big surge in requests is from people whose ageing and sick parents are stuck in other countries or from businessmen stranded abroad.

“We usually receive multiple queries which consist of guests looking for either the entire charter or just a seat. Since safety is a priority for everyone during such situations, we are mostly getting bookings for the entire aircraft," Tekriwal said in an email response.

Meanwhile, only a few inquiries often turn into bookings due to the costs associated with charter flights. However, the conversion rate is slowly climbing as affluent people are preferring to travel by charter planes due to safety, hygiene and convenience factors.

About 25% of the enquiries result in bookings, while about 60% of inquiries we get are new ones, said Sanjay Julka, CEO, technical, Club One Air, one of India’s oldest and largest air charter companies. For instance, Club One Air charges up to INR 16 lakh, plus goods and service tax for a Delhi-Goa one way flight on a nine-seater Falcon 2000 jet. The same sector on a seven-seater Citation Excel can cost up to INR 12 lakh plus taxes. Meanwhile, an one-way flight between Mumbai-Dehradun on a nine-seater Falcon 2000 can cost up to ?18 lakh plus taxes, while the same on a seven seater Citation Excel can cost up to ?13 lakh plus taxes.

“We are getting a lot of queries to Goa and Dehradun," Julka said. Many queries that are being received by private jet operators are for international flights to countries where flight operations are still restricted due to the pandemic. So, these queries remain to be converted to flight bookings till such restrictions are eased. (Source: Mint)

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