The jet set is flying for business and pleasure
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world. Among the industries that have been brutally hit, the aviation sector has been among the worst. Even so, the private aviation segment has seen an unprecedented rise in enquiries and demand. For the HNIs in India, private charters are the way to travel in the coming months, and likely even years. The rise of private charters may also be linked with the forecasted K-shaped recovery of the Indian economy. It is safe to say, for now, that private charters are here to stay.
One of the reasons why most people in India prefer private charters is because they provide far fewer touch points compared to flying commercial. The advantage of flying at a time that is convenient to you, with lesser or no stops and with a group of people that you possibly know is just a bonus.
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Then there are group charter flights, which have fixed routes and a fixed number of people which they fly on those routes. Just think of these as carpools that involve a set of people heading to the same destination. According to Kanika Tekriwal, the CEO of JetSetGo, more people have been enquiring about private jet availability than ever before. According to her the number of requests have gone up nine times or 900 per cent since the lockdown began.
For most part, private jet usage is for work. The demand goes up most during a state or general election when political leaders have to fly across the country to make it to rallies in time. But with rallies being banned or restricted anyway, there has been a drop in that demand. The other reason why people fly private is when their company is footing the bill, which is to say, for business. You want to get your employee to your client’s office in a short time, you fly them private. But Tekriwal has seen the rise of a new trend.
Tekriwal says: “Lately, we have received more requests for leisure travel than business. This is because leisure travel is picking up a slot and has already done, since people have now learned on how to work from anywhere apart from their home. We have been getting innumerable queries from people wanting to go to any place safe and to a tourist destination also for one way trips to Goa, Dubai, London etc for families to permanently move base for a few months.”
According to Tekriwal, the most number of charter flights have been originating from the five metros: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad and people are mostly flying to Dubai, Maldives, Thailand, Geneva, and London.
Dubai had opened its borders to foreign tourists on June 7 itself. The emirate has been the playground of the rich and famous so it isn’t surprising that it features among the destinations for private charter flights. It also helps that a lot of HNIs have a home in Dubai so why not fly and live in a different country if you have the opportunity, right?
The Maldives has been welcoming tourists as early as July. To make things easier for foreign tourists, the Maldives isn’t just skipping the COVID-19 testing, it is also not insisting on self-quarantining or declaring your health status. Which may be tad scary, but if you’re flying private, would it even matter?
Thailand too has opened its borders to foreign tourists. Not just that, it is taking things a step forward by introducing a 90-day, long-term visa for travellers with an option of renewing it twice. Which means you can stay in Thailand for as many as nine months. Unlike the Maldives, though, you will have to self-quarantine for 14 days and show that you have a booking for the entire duration of your stay.
According to rules, tourists arriving in Switzerland from select countries are required to go into quarantine the moment they arrive in Switzerland. India is one of the countries in the list. Having a negative test result doesn’t exempt you from quarantine and you will be required to stay indoors for ten days upon your arrival. Though, if you’re flying private to Geneva, it’s safe to say you will likely be quarantining in luxury.
There were already two airlines that have begun operations from Mumbai and Delhi to London. Following the footsteps of Vistara and Air India, low-cost airline Spice Jet is beginning its flights to London starting this December. We get the allure of London in Christmas. And even despite the coronavirus, it’s quite unlikely that the city won’t be everything you’ve dreamt of this Christmas. But you don’t have to wait for December to fly to London if you’re flying private. Several HNIs are already flying the coop and parking themselves in the British capital. We would do the same too, if we had the choice. Wouldn’t you?