Witnessing a great response from the market due to the pandemic, charter flight operations have certainly gained momentum. Kanika Tekriwal, CEO & Founder, JetSetGo Aviation, anticipates that more people will opt for charters rather than commercials for flying due to natural safety concerns.
With charter flights becoming a crucial part of the aviation landscape, what future do you see for them? Considering that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while and the future will not remain the same, we are anticipating that there will be more people opting for charters rather than commercials for flying due to safety concerns. However, the number of trips would reduce to 50 per cent or more. So, if someone plans seven trips in a year, they would reduce it to two or three. As Zoom and other web meeting platforms are the new Private Jet and everyone’s gotten to the new normal of doing business virtually, we are not going to see numbers come back anytime soon for business travel, once a major contributor to the travel industry. Leisure travel, however, is going to pick up a notch and is already showing influx mainly because people have now learnt to work from home at their own convenience and choice of place. Supporting the same, we have been getting innumerable queries for one-way trips to Goa, Dubai, London, etc., for families to permanently move base for a few months.
What kind of growth can be expected from the sector?
The growth of any sector depends on the market response for the product. In charter aviation, unlike before, we have started witnessing a great response from the market due to the pandemic. From the sudden nine-fold increase in requests that we saw just before the lockdown was announced to receiving approximately 20 queries a day just after the easing of restrictions, out of which 70 per cent were first-time flyers, we are seeing a projected growth. However, we are still to reach the times of pre–COVID as far as our business is concerned. The main reason for sustained growth would be a permanent shift in consumer behaviour and mindset, and when charter flying begins to be considered as normal as flying in a commercial aircraft in India. Once everything gets back to normal, we are expecting 25-30 per cent growth in our sector.
What will be the major change in terms of consumer behaviour while choosing charter flights?
We are observing a complete shift in consumer preferences and behaviour. Earlier, when safety and hygiene mattered less, there were many options available. Now that safety and hygiene are the new reality, options have become limited. More and more people are opting to choose charters when it comes to their travel options mainly for the reason that charters provide minimal touchpoints and better social distancing keeping the natural fears of people at bay. More than anything else, people have started normalising the term ‘charters’, which earlier was considered as a luxury commodity. For the very first time, we are seeing a new wave of queries received – people not necessarily rich are looking to hire private jets even if that means spending their life’s savings.
Will this bring about a paradigm change in the cost of operations?
The pricing of charters will more or less remain the same because unlike commercial flying, charters are more personalised and have a fixed cost of operation. The price is calculated with factors such as length of trip and size of aircraft in mind.