Dubai-based JetzHub plans to enter the Indian market soon, making the private aircraft charter market in India more crowded.
JetzHub is an aviation service provider of aircraft charter services such as private and commercial jets and air cargo services, along with aircraft sales and leasing.
“We will not be able to avoid India. It has the second largest population which is equal to the whole of Europe so you can imagine the business opportunity,” said Ahmed Shajeer, commercial director and a Kerala native, who has been in the UAE for 21 years. He spoke on the sidelines of the recently concluded Dubai Air Show.
JetzHub’s decision to enter the Indian market comes at a time when the Indian private air charter market is expanding and so are the number of entities in the private aircraft charter business.
For instance, YAQOOT Air Charter, Eastern India’s first private Jet Club, started operations late last month. The others in the market include JetSetGO and JetSmart. JetSetGO started operations in 2014 and JetSmart.
The reasons for demand for private charter jets picking up are not difficult to find. Those from the industry point out that post-COVID, the number of people wanting to charter planes has gone up dramatically. These people are not restricted to those travelling for business as was the case before COVID but also leisure travellers and a lot of first-time users of private jets.
Kanika Tekriwal, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, JetSetGo Aviation says, “The increase in the number of bookings can be attributed to obvious reasons such as the minimal touchpoints that one comes in contact with while flying private. Private jets are being considered safer and more hygienic.”
JetSetGO saw a surge in charter booking requests in October this year for destinations that had recently opened up including Turkey, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, and Abu Dhabi.
Though it is difficult to come up with the exact increase in business there are plenty of indicators to show that it is booming.
Rohit Kapur, former president of Business Aircraft Operators Association and currently based in Dubai as President Jet HQ Asia, says that the charter market has grown by about “25-30 percent” in the last year. “COVID has given a boost to private aircraft charters,” Kapur says. Jet HQ Asia is a global company into aircraft sales.
Adds Tekriwal, “Many customers who never thought they would charter a plane or who would only charter for business, or would rarely charter have started chartering planes a lot now.”
According to Tekriwal, back of the envelope calculations put the average flying of private jets at about 6,000 hours a month at an average hourly flying rate of Rs 3 lakh making it an about Rs 180 crore market monthly.
Sabeer Ahluwalia, co-founder, Yaqoot Air Charter is of the view that the air charter market in India is a Rs 500 to Rs 600 crore market. He adds that it is difficult to give the exact number of private charter flights as this is “restricted information” and can only be informed by airport authorities but he points out that the industry is experiencing a huge spurt in growth as people are concerned about the pandemic and want to fly privately.
Luxury and comfort
“I would say we have seen at least 30 percent of our new customer base come in the last six months,” Tekriwal said, adding that pre-COVID, people’s perceptions of private jetting were sheer luxury or huge expenditure to impress the rich and elite, but the pandemic has redefined this notion to a great extent. She points out that while in the pre-COVID period the company was doing about six landings a day, now “we are doing at least 15 landings a day”.
Ahluwalia adds that since Yaqoot announced its operations the company started getting calls and “we are sitting @50+ inquiries.”
Besides all these advantages in a post-pandemic world, charter flights also come with some other pluses – being able to fly in luxury and comfort.
For instance, JetzHubs which is planning to have a presence in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai owns two Boeing 737-400 aircraft and is to acquire a Boeing 747-400 “which will be coming soon.”
Normally the Boeing 737 variety of aircraft is a twin-engine narrowbody aircraft used for short to medium range flights which can carry about 180 passengers. Incidentally this variety of aircraft was used by Naresh Goyal for Jet Airways’ operations way back in the mid-1990s. The Boeing 747-400 version is used for long haul flights like flying non-stop from India to Europe.
But since private charter flights do not carry a full load of passengers they are able to fly their customers in more customised luxury further than what such aircraft in service with global airlines are capable of.(Ashwini Phadnis was at the Dubai Air Show at the invitation of flydubai)