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

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