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Bookings for private jets fell by up to 50% in April-May from March, following the second covid wave, which has affected large swathes of India’s population, including the business community and corporations.

According to Sanjay Julka, chief executive, technical, Club One Air, one of the oldest and largest air charter firms in India, between late March and early April, Club One had received bookings for overseas destinations like the UAE as people moved out of India following the outbreak of the second wave of covid infections. Since then, business has been tepid. “Till March, we saw high bookings. But in April-May, we saw a 50% fall (from March)," Julka said, adding that it could also be because many employees of top corporates have contracted covid.

However, with the second wave, unlike the first wave last year, receding at a faster pace, Julka expects the recovery in the business aviation sector to begin from June. “Things are slowly returning to normal as far as business aviation is concerned," he said. He expects higher demand for charter flights in the coming weeks as those who can afford would prefer to fly in smaller groups.

Since March 2020, business aviation operators have seen an exponential rise in queries and bookings as those who can afford charter flights have been preferring their services over commercial flights due to safety concerns.

Meanwhile, some private jet operators have shifted their focus to medevac and emergency services even as they continue to operate with limited workforce as a section of employees have also contracted the infection.

“We are seeing queries go up to 900%; all the enquiries are purely out of necessity from people who fear covid the most. The requests are not coming from our regular customers but from the ones who are pooling all their resources for the fear of not having access to medical facilities at the right time," said Kanika Tekriwal, chief executive and founder, JetSetGo Aviation, a private charter service provider and aggregator.

“From total queries we have received starting early March, 20% were from students living abroad and wanting to fly back to India, 50% from people opting for chartering services for medical emergencies, out of which 75% were first-time flyers. We are hardly getting any enquiries on leisure or business travel." Tekriwal said only 10% of queries since March have actually led to bookings.

Experts said charges for air ambulance services have gone up two- to three-fold during the second wave of covid.

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