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Helicopter and private jet bookings have picked up ahead of Bihar elections.
Helicopter and private jet bookings have picked up ahead of Bihar elections.

Festive bookings for charter planes decline

Bookings for charter flights have returned to negative territory during the ongoing festive season after a surge earlier in the year as people remain sceptical about flying during the covid-19 pandemic

NEW DELHI : Bookings for charter flights have returned to negative territory during the ongoing festive season after a surge earlier in the year as people remain sceptical about flying during the covid-19 pandemic.

Bookings spiked when the government allowed domestic flights in May-end after a two-month suspension amid a lockdown to contain the pandemic.

“Despite the sudden rise in charter flight bookings soon after the easing of restrictions, people seem less enthusiastic to travel for festivals," said Kanika Tekriwal, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of private jet and helicopter operator Jetsetgo Aviation Services Pvt. Ltd.

“We are observing different kinds of trends during the festive season, with an overall decline in private charter booking requests," Tekriwal said.

Bookings in October so far are about two-thirds of the same period last year with revenues falling at least 20% from the year-ago period, according to data from Jetsetgo. Every year, corporates and others book charter flights from Jetsetgo to make quick trips to Kolkata during Durga Puja festival and return a few hours later.

“This year we have bookings of only seven such flights compared with 32 last year during Durga Puja. Also, most people book their Diwali holiday flights at least three months in advance. This year, however, because of the uncertainty for the past six to seven months, we are observing delays in flight bookings for Diwali," Tekriwal said.

Festive season bookings remain low, but others are picking up, said Sanjay Julka, CEO, technical, at Club One Air, one of India’s oldest and largest air charter firms. “Bookings have somewhat picked up but not because of the festive season. Festive bookings remain low. However, this is compensated by first-time travellers who have earlier travelled first or business class but because of safety concerns over covid-19 now fly charters," Julka said.

Private charter companies, however, hope for an overall revival in demand in the coming weeks as people who can afford charter flights would prefer to fly in smaller groups amid the pandemic.

“We foresee that people will prefer to fly in smaller groups, avoid large gatherings. Solutions offered by charter services address the need of the hour by providing exclusive, personalized, problem-free and convenient commuting options," said Karanpal Singh, founder, Hunch Ventures and BLADE India, a helicopter charter company. The number of passengers opting for private chartered services is likely to increase, as safety and hygiene is at the top of everyone’s mind.

Meanwhile, helicopter and private jet bookings ahead of the Bihar elections have picked up as many central leaders travelled to the state for election rallies just before the polls.

Charter firms, which have helicopter and plane leases tied up months in advance of elections, had till very recently seen a dearth of bookings as political parties were forced to hold virtual meetings and digital campaigns instead of roadshows and rallies. This changed closer to the election dates. The polls are being held from 28 October to 7 November in three phases. Bookings for Bihar elections have picked up recently, Julka said.

Several people flew charter flights from one city to another when domestic commercial flights were not available or were limited in number, said Mark Martin, chief executive of aviation consultancy Martin Consulting LLC. “With the resumption of domestic commercial services and capacity increment, these people are now flying commercial flights instead of charters," Martin said.

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