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Demand for charter flights rises for a safe landing amid pandemic

With domestic flights resuming service, many people concerned about boarding a crowded plane are opting for charter services. To maintain safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are ready to pay lakhs for these services. In fact, the demand is so high that domestic flight operator Indigo has now rolled out a charter service. Spicejet has been conducting air ambulance service, and industry insiders say that it is also planning for charter service.

Last week, a family of four flew from Bhopal to Delhi in a chartered Airbus A320, which may have cost Rs 10 lakh, according to industry insiders. Before that, another family flew from Bengaluru to Kochi via charter service and paid Rs 5 lakh. The queries for these rides increased by over 300% in the second phase of the lockdown when operators didn’t even have permission to fly. An employee of a Delhi-based charter service says, “Our phones have not stopped buzzing during the lockdown, we have never seen so much demand before.”

Rahul Muchhal, the owner of an aviation company, says, “It’s the new fliers who are driving this demand. People find private chartered flights safer than being on a crowded plane during the pandemic. We had more requests in the last week of May this year than in the entire month last year. What’s interesting is that the demand is not from celebrities or the super rich, but from regular people who are ready to shell out extra bucks to book a charter. Most of the fliers are those who never felt the need to fly privately before, but are doing it now.” Most chartered planes have capacity of four-14 persons and follow standard operating procedure.

An airport official says, “The passengers of charter services do not have to report two hours before the flight. They have escorts who help them with security checks and they don’t have to stand in queues.”
Industry insiders say that while Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Bengaluru, Delhi-Hyderabad are the most popular routes, they are also getting requests from Tier-II cities like Puducherry, Indore etc.

A source from a charter service says, “The demand for chartered planes is quite high and the availability is low. So we are booking a domestic flight and using it as a charter. We did this for a recent booking of a Delhi-Varanasi charter flight.”

Another source involved in charter services says, “There are many stranded people who are ready to pay any amount to travel safely. Travel agents are also booking 175-seater planes through these charter services. Booking a plane from an airline costs somewhere between Rs 25-30 lakh.” 

Source: Times of India

Jet firms on tailwind as super-rich turn to charter flights to cut airport bustle

Private jet companies which lease planes say demand for their services has increased after the Centre opened up domestic air travel; their clientele includes corporate houses and international tourists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased concerns over safe flight travel and is pushing people to look for alternatives to crowded airports and boarding planes with almost no social distancing. With hygiene being the top-most priority, the rich are opting for charter flights instead.

This in turn has increased business opportunity for budding private jet companies that lease aircraft. Their clientele includes corporate houses, HNIs, international tourists, Bollywood/production houses, PSUs, and sportspersons.

These businesses claim that the demand for their services has suddenly spiked manifold. “If we used to get five to 10 inquiries per month from the super-rich previously, that has now increased to 30. We were anticipating a complete shift in flying patterns of people in the next four to five years, but the pandemic is pushing the super-rich to consider private jet leasing earlier than we expected,” said Ambashankar, director of Chennai-based SBS aviation.

When an aircraft gets wet-leased, there is a temporary transfer of the title for six months (200 hours) or one year (400 hours). During that period, complete management of the plane is taken care of by the jet leasing firm. They provide the crew, including pilots, engineers and flight attendants, and also maintain the aircraft, and arrange insurance, DGCA approvals and other licenses. The salaries of the crew are also paid by the lessor.

“There are only a handful of people who own an aircraft even amongst the superrich. People generally don’t buy aircraft because they have to spend heavily on maintenance and operations. But, when we give it for lease, we take care of everything. The price is also bearable,” Ambashankar added.

Price of leasing

Leasing services start at a minimal rate of ₹3 crore. The price increases, depending on the number of hours and capabilities of the aircraft. For example, in case the lessee wants to lease a basic Cessna Citation model that can fly for around four to five hours for a period of 6 months, it would cost them around ₹3.5 lakhs, whereas a Hawker 900 XP or a Falcon 2000 with better capabilities might cost around ₹12.8 crore a year. But, the leasing rate of the basic model aircraft would cost around ₹180 to ₹200 crore, without maintenance charges. Private jet companies believe this gives them an upper hand to negotiate with their clients.

While the entrepreneurs expect an upward trajectory growth, industry experts acknowledge that the people, however, will fly only when necessary. While the number of inquiries has seen a surge, there is still doubt about how many of them would actually turn into clients.

The government allowed domestic air travel of private jets and charter flights from May 25, while issuing guidelines for operation. This includes specifications that do not allow meals to be served, require passengers to be screened, and download Aarogya Setu app and for the crew to be in full protective suit among others. The operators can decide how much to charge.

“Until recently, the government permitted charters and private jets to operate only to facilitate medical operations. Now, they are allowed to operate with certain restrictions. Businesses are looking for opportunities, but people will purely travel based on necessity. Luxury travel will be avoided. If anybody wants to hire planes for lease, it would mostly be corporates who want their senior executive members to travel safely for meetings. Big industrial houses would already have their aircraft,” said Captain Uday Gelli, president of Rotary Wing Society of India, Western region.

While COVID is expected to change air travel patterns of people with operations slowly resuming, a reality check can be done only when the aviation sector completely opens up.

Source: The Federal

Private jets soar on demand from super rich

So your flight’s canceled, but you need to get home or to that important business meeting ASAP. Perhaps you’re just nervous about transiting through a busy airport with other passengers.
Most of us are handling coronavirus-related disruption by staying put, but for those in a travel predicament with dollars to burn, there’s an increasingly popular alternative: private jets.
While much of the travel industry has been suffering as the infection spreads globally, the private jet industry has apparently been on a roll.

Those travelers turning towards the private jet market do so for a range of reasons, with one common denominator: they’re all able to spend thousands of dollars on the trip.

Operators say they’re now servicing customers who would usually take business or first-class options.
Private jet users seek solace in the fact that the aircraft’s exactly that — private. There’s no battling for armrests or ending up in close proximity to others. Plus, these flights operate out of small, private aviation terminals, not mass transport hubs.

While private jet companies might be more willing to fly in and out of lockdown zones, the aircraft still operate within the same framework, rules and regulations as commercial airplanes.
Flying into a lockdown zone involves a safety assessment and submitting a flight plan to airport authorities, who will send it to health authorities, who pass on a list of requirements.

Aircrew are given a full briefing on the route they’re flying, the level of risk and the government stance on the destination.

Source: CNN Travel