Covid-19 pandemic thruster off, demand for chartered flight declines

Operators hopeful of business travel driving demand

Deepak Patel New Delhi

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Chartered flight movements declined in India by 18.3 per cent in 2022-23 to 249,424 as the tailwind generated during the Covid-19 pandemic gradually ebbed.
In 2021-22, charter flight movements had hit a peak of 305,449, according to the Airports Authority of India’s (AAI’s) data, which has been reviewed by Business Standard. Each arrival/departure at an Indian airport is counted as one movement.

Rajesh Bali, managing director, Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA), said: “The Covid-19 pandemic boosted the demand. There is no doubt about it. As personal protection was more important, people did not worry much about the cost of taking a charter flight.”
During the pandemic, there was a lot of emergency travel, and that included air ambulance flights. “So, these specific types of flights have declined,” Bali said. BAOA has more than 70 members. During the peak of the Covid pandemic, people were willing to travel on any plane to reach their destination. “Now, people want a particular aircraft. They want convenience,” he said, adding that operators now should add high-end aircraft to their fleet. 

Have customers shifted from business jets to business-class of commercial airlines? “That is mostly true. However, we are also seeing that if a company has to send 2-3 senior executives to a destination, it is booking a chartered flight. You will see the effect of this demand in FY24,” Bali answered.
Amit Dutta, managing director, Blade India, told Business Standard that while India witnessed a surge in charter flight movements during the peak of Covid-19 due to health concerns, even as domestic flights saw a lull, one can now expect the trend to slightly change as these concerns are no longer prevalent.


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The company still sees huge demand for charter flights, especially for business purposes, he said.

Like Bali, Dutta also talked about air medical evacuations, which were on the rise during the second wave of Covid-19. “That number was bound to come down and that could have also contributed to this decrease (chartered flight movements in FY23),” he said.
During Covid-19, many commercial airliners started providing charter services in increasing numbers. “We are now back to charter aggregators and operators providing these services,” Dutta mentioned.

He expressed optimism about growth in 2023-24, stating that people who value convenience will continue to use charter flights. “We saw a lot of first-time charter fliers during Covid-19 who had a mind shift once they experienced such services and continue to avail of them even now," he said.
Dutta noted that luxury travel, people seeking unique travel experiences, and destination weddings could be the factors leading to growth in 2023-24.

A Mumbai-based charter flight operator said that while chartered flight demand fell in FY23 as compared to FY22, the growth outlook is “universally positive”. The number of HNIs is increasing, and various state elections are coming up this year, and this will drive growth of chartered flights in India, the operator added.
Delhi-based JetSetGo told Business Standard that it did not experience a decline in its charter services during 2022-23. "Based on our business operations, we have not observed a substantial number of customers reverting to scheduled flights from business aviation aircraft amid the pandemic. However, it is plausible that the overall private aviation industry may have experienced shifts in customer preferences, leading to fluctuations in chartered flight movements," it mentioned.

Like Blade India, JetSetGo also expects a surge in demand for private jet travel in 2023-24.
"In FY24, we expect a significant surge in demand for private jet travel. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased people’s desire to minimise their exposure to large crowds and public transportation, leading to an increased interest in private air travel,” it mentioned.

Bali of BAOA said that he expects a minimum increase of 10 per cent, if not more, in the number of chartered flights in FY24. “It could go up to 20 per cent.”
Bali insisted that even today, overall demand for chartered flights is higher than the supply. “Demand is picking up in real terms right now. If you want to book a chartered flight today, you will not get it immediately. You will have to book in advance,” he added.

First Published: May 26 2023 | 11:44 PM IST

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