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JetSetGo Aviation, a private jet and helicopter operator and aggregator, has shifted its focus from operating only private charters to offering medical evacuation flights during the ongoing pandemic. Kanika Tekriwal, chief executive and founder said that though the number of inquiries for medical emergency flights has surged, only a fraction of those are getting translated into actual bookings as private flights are a costly affair. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How is your company dealing with the second covid wave?

As we are experiencing the second wave, we are yet again observing an influx in emergency requests from people who want to fly to another country—majorly from New Delhi and Mumbai—or to small cities for covid treatment as hospital admission at hubs has been over-exhausted. Also, people want to leave the contaminated zones and go to safer places without having any immediate medical emergency just to avoid the infection.

Have you recreated your offerings?

With the increase in requests, our main focus has shifted from providing luxurious private charter experience to providing medevac/emergency services to our guests while continuing operations with limited workforce (due to the pandemic). Keeping our teams safe is the first priority. Last year was a big learning experience for us and we managed to sail through by recreating our entire offering. We mapped the new requirements creating a ‘new normal’ and had stringent SOPs in place that allowed flexibility and quick adaptation to the changing times. This year also, we are well-equipped to sustain another wave with continued and dedicated efforts towards catering to the market.

Have the bookings and enquiries picked up or declined since March?

We are seeing queries go up to 900%. All these enquiries are purely out of necessity from people who fear covid-19 the most. These requests are not coming from our regular customers but from ones that are pooling all their resources to get access to medical facilities at the right time. From the total queries that we have received to date, starting from early March 2021, 20% have been from students living or studying abroad and wanting to fly back to India, 50% from people looking at chartering services for medical emergencies out of which 75% were first-time flyers. We are hardly getting any enquiries on leisure or business travel. However, only 10% of these queries actually translate into bookings since flying private obviously does not come cheap. We are trying our best to reduce costs as much as possible to help everyone we can.

Are the restrictions imposed by state governments a hindrance to your operations?

We are facing slight hindrance in our operations in a few states that have been severely impacted by the virus, and have imposed lockdowns and strict quarantine rules. There are no other significant issues as far as our operations are concerned. However, despite falling under the exempted category, our teams are often harassed (by police and officials) enroute to the airport and back.

Do you think more people will now prefer to fly private charters than before due to the pandemic?

Since the start of the pandemic last year, we have seen an exponential rise in queries with people reaching out to us to fly to a safer place or get someone from their family medically treated or to shift bases for a few months.

We have also seen a complete mindset shift as people today are more mindful and cautious while choosing their travel options. Whether it’s health risk concerns or just getting where they need to be, people and companies that have the means to fly privately—but had eschewed it—are now looking at the options due to the safety, hygiene and convenience factors that charters provide.

So, we do foresee a marginal increase in requests in the long term. But since flying private is expensive, we are not very sure that many will adapt to the same.

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