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Flying Privately, Safely
Health and safety concerns have led to more bookings of private jets. There is a spike in the bookings of charter flights due to safety benefits
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From a small holiday getaway destination to that ‘must do’ business meeting, more CXOs and anyone with deep pockets are opting for the ‘safe and secure’ private flying options. Flying on a private jet was always a luxury; it still is today. But something has changed, it seems. Post pandemic ‘safety’ has been prefixed on everything including ‘luxury’. Why is that? Simply, because now flying privately comes loaded with a host of benefits that keeps you virtually in a safety bubble thereby protecting you from coronavirus. “It is secure, safe, and customized. And there is virtually zero physical contact with any one. Every step is customized to make one travel safely and securely,” says Ishiqa Jain (name changed on request), CEO and founder of a technology firm who had to meet her American investor friend on March 28 in Bengaluru, three days after the nationwide lockdown. “ My CFO and I flew on a private plane from Delhi and came back the same night. It was something we had to do because of which we got the next round of funding,” says Jain.
On June 6, Mumbai-based Harsh (28 years) and Chaya (27 years), engaged to be married four days before the lockdown, approached a private air charter firm and worked out an intimate getaway (with three more friends) to Udaipur. With hotels shut, they managed a private villa and booked a one-way flight. “We drove back in a friends SUV. It was an amazing experience of flying with our close friends. The entire aircraft was for us, there was food too. We reached 30-minutes before departure and boarded the aircraft in 10-minutes with all mandatory safety precautions included. The money was well spent. It worked out to be a couple of lakhs per person. The experience was well worth the money considering the lockdown, the rising Covid-19 cases, the restrictions etc.,” says Chaya.
Luxury of flying on a private airplane has taken a new meaning post pandemic, it seems. “In the early days, there was a sudden demand for evacuation flights. We were able to fly 17 evacuation flights with all the required approvals across cities like Udaipur-Delhi, Vizag-Bangalore, Bangalore-Delhi, Bangalore-Doha, Mumbai-Dubai, and Ahmedabad- Delhi. People were reaching out to us knowing that charters were the safest option available. Due to which we saw 70 per cent of our requests coming in from first-time flyers overall,” says Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and Founder, JetSetGo Aviation. Then there were requests from business travelers including the CXO’s, adds Tekriwal. “We flew 384 flights for both domestic and international sectors upon request from CEO’s & CXO’s,” she says.
Then there were those flying privately for leisure. The most popular destinations during the lockdown months included Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Goa. Overseas favourites were Dubai, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, say executives of some of the leading private charter firms.
Apart from JetSetGo, there are a handful of other popular ones like Book My Charters, Foresee Aviation, Prince Air, Club One Air, Air Charter Services and some more.
Private or Charter?
A chartered flight is an unscheduled flight. It is a different category of licensing. When one charters an aircraft, they have to pay for the entire aircraft. Those flying on private aircrafts are shown the whole selection along with the seat-configuration. The popular ones in India include aircrafts from Pilatus, Cessna, Beechcraft, Gulfstream, Dassault Falcon to Bombardier Global.
Regarding the cost - chartering a private jet comes with a number of permutations and combinations. There is a broad thumb-rule - the cost of flights varies as per the size of the aircraft and length of the trip. They start at Rs 80,000/hour for a 06-seat Turboprop to Rs 5-6 lakh/hour for a 16-seator jet. More specifically it costs around Rs 1.5 lakh/hour on Cessna Citation-II or Rs 3.5 lakh for a Dassault Falcon 2000. In real terms, a return flight from Delhi to Mumbai in a Business Class on a commercial plane normally costs around Rs 1-1.2 lakh. On a private jet, it would be around Rs 9-10 lakh.