As the Indian government strives to make flying affordable for the masses with its regional connectivity scheme, aircraft charter companies are charting a similar flight path as aggregators — much like Ola and Uber — and offering fares that are up to 50% cheaper.
As an aggregator, a company would offer flyers all available aircraft on one platform and optimise the use of the planes. There are 129 general aviation operators in the country and about 60 of them have fixed-wing aircraft in their fleets, while the remainder have only helicopters.
Conventionally, most charter companies charge customers all the costs associated with hiring an aircraft — travel from the home base, the actual trip and the empty return leg. With the aggregator model, aircraft chartering charges can drop by as much as 50%.
By positioning aircraft strategically across the country and by matching demand and supply more efficiently, the overall flying time can be reduced, significantly lowering costs for customers vis-à-vis the rate charged by a standalone charter company, according to Kanika Tekriwal, co-founder of Jet-SetGo, a New Delhi-based business charter company with cricketer Yuvraj Singh as one of its investors.
“The cost differential can, hence, even be as high as 50%,” said Tekriwal. Hiring an aircraft with six to nine seats currently, ranges from Rs 150,000 to Rs 200,000 an hour. Air One Aviation Pvt, promoted by former president of Air Sahara Alok Sharma, is in the business charter business and has offered up to 500 planes through its subsidiary Ezee Charter Pvt. Sharma said the charter business segment in the country is set to grow and he plans to tap the leisure travel market.
“At a later stage, we want to launch holiday packages, which will have on offer flights according to passenger convenience and hotels to a group of people flying to a particular destination. Going ahead, I see a lot of charter flights being used for leisure travel and a big market is waiting to be tapped,” said Sharma.
While the primary focus is on business and leisure travellers, New Delhi-based Flaps Aviation is launching an exclusive air ambulance service – a first for India – by the end of this month.
“We are primarily looking to base ourselves in the non-metros of the country, which is where the market for air ambulance services is. Our aim is not just to ensure easy and quick availability of air ambulances, but also provide it at a reasonable rate. Our rates will be about 20% cheaper than the rates being offered by the operators today,” said Amit Kumar, managing director of Flaps Aviation and a trained pilot, who has flown medical evacuation flights.
The rate for an air ambulance between Guwahati and Delhi would be about Rs 500,000 per trip. Air ambulances are currently offered by hospitals and are not always available immediately. Flaps Aviation’s first base will be in Guwahati, which will be followed by Raipur. It will expand to Patna, Kochi, Surat and Vishakapatnam.
The company will launch a membership scheme and is in talks with insurance companies to fund the air ambulance cost, at least partially.