Now, Rarefied Flying Club Opening to Urban Middle
These days, travelling by air is pretty ordinary. To be extraordinary, you can fly in style — in a private jet. And you don’t have to be a corporate honcho owning a turbo jet or be super rich to pony up cash on aircraft rentals. Catching the fancy of the upper middle class, charter companies and online marketplaces are re-defining luxury at 38,000 ft for those having just Rs 60,000 and above in spare.
Unbelievably, this elite experience is lighter on the pocket and comes with exquisite services like chilled face towels, gourmet meals, fragrant roses and champagne flute to boot. To give you a fully immersive experience, there are enticing and somewhat altruistic themes — proposing your sweetheart in a private jet flying atop the Taj Mahal, or uncorking a bottle of bubbly enroute to Goa for your bachelorette party or enthralling your kid celebrating his/her birthday in a colourful chopper — to choose from.
“The idea is to make private flying accessible. We have been catering to corporates and high networth individuals, but we see that the traction from the upper middle class is gaining pace,” says Kanika Tekriwal, Co-founder & CEO, JetSetGo, a private jet concierge service. Recently, JetSetGo tied up with Droom, an online marketplace to offer joy rides from cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and Goa.
“We are poised to leverage the growing spending power of the Indian consumers to provide them with need-based private aviation solutions,” explains Sandeep Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, Droom, which now has access to a fleet of 60-70 jets operated by air charters in the country.
According to Frost & Sullivan, India is the fastest-growing private jets market in Asia Pacific, including China. In fact, India outnumbers China and Japan when it comes to private jets. While China has 93, Japan has 76 private jets. India’s 140 plus private aircraft represent 12 per cent of the global market. There are over a dozen air charters, whose services are largely used by businessmen, celebrities and politicians. Opening up to urban middle class widens the market base.
For the super rich, owning a private aircraft isn’t expensive — with private aircraft priced as low as $4.5 million (Rs 30 crore). But unlike them, those who cannot afford to buy an aircraft can certainly hire one.
“We have two aircraft, which we use for internal purposes 60 per cent of the time. In the remaining time, we offer it for others to hire,” says Joy Alukkas, MD, Joy Jets adding that South Indians are yet to pick up pace to fly in private.
Falling crude oil prices are likely to further reduce air travel cost, as fuel bill alone comprises about 40-45 of the total airline operating costs. Interestingly, aviation turbine fuel or jet fuel is 33 per cent cheaper than petrol. While petrol in Delhi costs Rs 61.20 per litre, jet fuel is priced Rs 40.93 a litre. Effectively, flying should be economical than traveling by a car, but other costs like ground handling charges, parking, landing fee etc shoot up the overall expense.
For instance, on a busy route like Delhi-Mumbai, ground handling, comprising check-in, luggage handling, loading and unloading etc, costs about Rs 25,000-50,000. “The fall in fuel prices is also offset by rise in dollar (vs rupee) as aircraft regular inspections, maintenance and spare parts etc are all done in dollars,” says Kanika.
For jet owners, Profitability depends on how many times the aircraft flies and to which destinations, to justify the investment. And hence, charter firms are being flexible in conceiving tour packages and to customize routes. There are 200 airstrips in the country, but only 80 are connected by commercial airlines. Charter planes intend to fly customers on Routes like Delhi-Agra,which commercial flights don’t operate.
As companies make private flying both accessible and affordable, may be it’s time to tick it off from the bucket list.
What’s on Offer
Shorter routes like Mumbai-Pune (one way) start from Rs 60,000
A round trip from Mumbai-Goa for 9 with waiting time of 8 hours costs Rs 5.5 lakh
Meals and hard beverages while flying
Flowers at the reception
Interaction with pilot, crew and ground staff
Information tour of the aircraft
Decorations with balloons, if required