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NEW DELHI: The spread of covid-19 pandemic has led to a rise in enquiries and business for private air charter companies with many individuals and families with deep pockets increasingly preferring to book charter flights instead of commercial jetliners for travel to even domestic destinations.

India's largest domestic airline, InterGlobe Aviation Limited operated IndiGo, recently upgraded its website to include charter fight booking options, in its quest to explore new revenue model.

The airline plans to offer such services on both Airbus A320 and smaller ATR aircraft. According to the IndiGo website, passengers are required to submit details, including travel destinations, date and time of travel, passenger details, following which the airline would get in touch to finalize details over the next 24 hours.

"IndiGo always provided the option of charter flights for its passengers. However, this was not a regular thing before," said a senior IndiGo official, under the condition of anonymity.

"Earlier, we used to fly a couple of charter flights in a month, both to international and domestic destinations. Now, we have started getting more queries and the number of such flights have also increased," the official added.

Since, the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, enquiries for booking charter flights have increased tremendously, as people want to travel but without compromising on safety, said Sanjay Julka, chief executive officer, technical, Club One Air, one of India’s oldest and largest air charter companies.

"Private charter aircraft doesn't take much time to reach destinations, and one doesn't have to report hours in advance like in case of taking a commercial flights," Julka said adding that passengers can arrive at the airport just 30 minutes before the flight's departure.

"Though, enquires for our charter services have increased, business from our traditional clients which include business trips, political trips, etc have taken a hit due to the covid-19 pandemic," he added.

Though the covid-19 pandemic has brought about certain changes even while flying private charter flights, which include mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) like masks on board a flight, controlled meal services, passengers of such flight no longer have to take special permissions from the government.

"There are no restrictions to flying charter flights. However, passengers will have to deal with requirements of the state, which currently include serving self quarantine period if one is detected with fever, etc," Julka added.

Flying on private charter aircraft can cost a bit though. For instance, the cost of a seat on a Delhi-Mumbai flight can cost up to 1,27,219 per seat or 10,17,750 for the full flight, according to data from JetSetGo, which operates charter flights and also acts as an aggregator of charter flight services.

Similarly, a flight between Delhi and Bangalore can cost up to 1,62,250 per seat or 12,98, 000 for the full flight. A flight on Delhi-Chennai route can cost upto 1,62,250 per seat or 12,98, 000 for the full flight, while one between Kolkata-Delhi can cost up to 1,27,833 per seat or 10,22,667 for the full flight. A flight between Mumbai and Kolkata can cost up to 1,64,831 per seat or 13, 18, 650 for the full flight.

For charter flights, some of the aircraft that are offered to passengers include Falcon 2000, Challenger 350, apart from helicopters.

People are resorting to charter flights by paying several times over, as there is a lot of confusion with commercial travel, with rising number of cancellations and uncertainties over social distancing, said aviation consultant Mark Martin, chief executive of Martin Consulting LLC.

"The private charter industry hasn't been over imposed with regulations by government as has been cases with commercial airlines. But, this is momentary due to covid-19 pandemic. Once, things get back to normal, many people who are flying charter flights will go back to commercial flights," Martin added.

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