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Chartered plane operators see slow demand amid coronavirus crisis

After domestic flights restarted operations on May 25, chartered planes have also been used to ferry stranded migrant labourers to different parts of the country.

May 31, 2020 / 07:21 PM IST

In these times of coronavirus, chartered flights might seem to be the preferred choice for those who can afford but chartered jet industry executives feel business growth is unlikely to pick up in the next few months even though they have received a few enquiries after the resumption of domestic flight services.

After domestic flights restarted operations on May 25, chartered planes have also been used to ferry stranded migrant labourers to different parts of the country.

However, industry executives opined that more than domestic chartered flights, the demand would be higher for international chartered flights once overseas services are allowed.

International flight services still remain suspended amid the nationwide lockdown in place since March 25.

Chartered aircraft services operator Club One Air CEO Rajan Mehra said people are hesitating to travel due to quarantine requirements in different states but expressed optimism that demand would pick up once there is clarity about the situation.

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The chartered aircraft business grew almost flat in the previous fiscal and would take time to see good growth, according to the executives. Specific growth numbers could not be immediately ascertained.

The domestic chartered aircraft or non-scheduled operator business is quite fragmented in the country. Majority of the players have just one or two aircraft. There are only about four or five big players who have at least ten aircraft in their fleet.

The total fixed wing fleet size of the 150-odd private jet operators stands at 200, as per industry estimates.

"Last (financial) year, growth was flat and this fiscal also, we are not expecting any growth because of COVID-19. We expect the business to pick up only from November. But we are expecting industry to return to growth from 2021-22 when it should log 10 per cent growth," industry veteran and Managing Director of Business Aircraft Operators Association R K Bali told PTI.

BAOA represents more than 100 non-scheduled operators.

Bali noted that the domestic chartered aircraft industry has been facing some issues such as absence of the concept of aircraft management companies.

Aviaton consultancy CAPA South Asia CEO Kapil Kaul said non-scheduled operators' business in India has been on a significant downside for the last few years and COVID-19 would have an extreme impact.

Last month, global aviation consultancy ICT Aviation in a survey said the demand for private aviation might increase with people preferring for such segments of travel to avoid crowds.

"It is conceivable that in an attempt to avoid crowd, some passengers will limit their attendance at large gatherings, will increasingly prefer non-stop flights to avoid exposure to crowd at connecting airports or will prefer the exclusivity of private aviation, (if they can afford it)," the survey, conducted among senior and mid-level executives from across the world, had said.

"It is picking up slowly and there has been a response. However, it is still slow because people are hesitating to travel due to the issue of quarantine in different states. As things become clear about their arrival situation in different states, it will then definitely pick up," Club One Air's Mehra said.

Mehra said that once the government opens up international flying, there could be a surge in international chartered flights from India.

Prior to COVID-19, such flights accounted for about 30 per cent of the total chartered flights business.

"I have a feeling that the charter business from India which traditionally is not that high is going to increase. There is a pent up demand for international travel particularly for those countries which are coronavirus free," he said, adding that there have been enquiries for chartered planes to Maldives and Mauritius.

According to him, domestic and international traffic of chartered operators are expected to change to "60:40 ratio from 70:30 ratio prior to the emergence of the pandemic".

Former BAOA President and JetHQ Asia President Rohit Kapur said that at the moment, there is only essential travel and not elective one like people choosing to travel for holidays. But there are initial enquiries and they are definitely encouraging, he added.

JetHQ Asia is an aircraft transaction and brokerage company.

This week, at least four special chartered aircraft were operated to different parts of the country, with three of them flying stranded migrant workers. Some of the planes were operated by scheduled carriers like AirAsia India as chartered flights.
PTI
first published: May 31, 2020 07:14 pm

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