The travel and tourism industry is definitely witnessing a pickup in demand in air travel bookings and this will further increase during the time of Dussehra and Diwali holidays when families and friends would like to reunite with their loved ones during the festive season. Also, as more flyers become mindful of the safety compromises traveling with commercial airlines entail, the demand for chartered aircrafts, which is one’s safest possible options right now, is at an all-time high. At first, the industry was skeptical that the spread of the COVID variants at the time of the second wave would lead us to miss out on the travel season for a second year as well. However, when travel restrictions began to uplift in various popular international tourist destinations, the industry gained momentum in travel bookings especially for leisure travel and staycations as working from home made it flexible for most of the people to break away from the monotony. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and Founder of JetSetGo Aviation talked about the situation of the private aviation industry in India, impact of COVID-19, trends and more. Excerpt:
How would you explain the unfolding scenario of private aviation after lockdown?
Given the present disruption in flight services, charters offer a high degree of flexibility and dependability. With more flyers becoming mindful of their safety, the demand for chartered aircrafts is at an all-time high. The increasing complexity and disruptions in flying commercial, for which there is no clarity on when or what the new normal will be, are resulting in a significant spike in demand for private aviation. The private charter business is therefore witnessing an all-time high demand. With safety added to the list of other benefits flying private offers, such as on-board comfort, ease of booking, discretion, speed of service, timing, seamless ground transportation, etc., the industry is all set to witness a boom like never before.
In keeping with these emerging trends, JetSetGo aims at addressing the growing market size of the private aviation industry in India. Growing from strength-to-strength each year since our inception in 2014, we have managed to maintain efficient management, cultivated a global network of suppliers, contributed in innovative parts and tool sharing programs, and also achieved vast economies of scale. We have truly democratized private flying and made it accessible to anyone who deeply values time and convenience, to easily charter an aircraft for any and all travel requirements. Also, after the onset of the pandemic we are observing a segment of people who are travelling via a private jet for the very first time. Considering the safety options that private jets offer; a few business class flyers have turned into private jet flyers. Whilst we are not immune to general economic downturns, we do have some protection due to our competitive pricing and unparalleled service.
Are you witnessing an increase in demand for travel after the lockdown? What is driving this increase in bookings and how did you prepare for this surge?
The travel ban is being lifted for domestic and international destinations and we have seen a substantial surge in requests for leisure travel. Several popular destinations are now opening up for Indian travelers and vaccines are being rolled out across the globe. We have seen a nine-fold increase in booking requests out of which 70% are new clients of JetSetGo. We have seen approximately 10-12 booking queries each day ever since the air travel suspension was lifted for countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mexico, UAE amongst others. This demand reiterates the growing faith of people in the private aviation segment. We are anticipating that more flyers will opt to fly private due to the safety concerns over COVID-19 and the convenience that it offers.
The increase in the number of bookings can be attributed to obvious reasons such as the minimal touchpoints that one comes in contact with while flying private. Private jets are considered safer and more hygienic. The industry is moving ahead with positive resumption signs as people have also started restoring faith in travelling and don’t mind spending when it comes to their safety and well-being.
We are also observing a segment of people who are travelling via a private jet for the very first time. Considering the level of safety private jets ensure, a few business class flyers have now turned into private jet flyers. This has largely been possible due to the fact that JetSetGo has truly democratised private flying and made it accessible to anyone who deeply values time and convenience, to easily charter an aircraft for any and all travel requirements.
Given the emerging trends, it is a natural progression for JetSetGo to consider acquiring more aircrafts through appropriate financing models on long-term charter contracts with our customers. As of now, the demand far exceeds supply. We have had to turn down almost 50-60 per cent of our customers due to the shortage of supply. Therefore, we are beefing up the fleet.
As the festive season approaches, from which clients would you witness the maximum demand? Also, specify the popular sectors
We have already started witnessing travel requests from families and friends who are looking to visit their loved ones during the festive season, especially during Diwali. Requests from parents of students studying abroad are also pouring in who are looking to reunite after the ease in travel restrictions across the globe. We have also seen a substantial surge in requests for leisure travel as several popular destinations are now opening up for Indian travellers. Currently, Ukraine, Russia, Mexico and Maldives are the top destinations for leisure travel. The popular sectors for domestic travel are metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Gujarat, Chennai, and Hyderabad among others.
How private jets/ choppers are faring now compared with pre-COVID?
After facing a major blow due to COVID-19 and the related travel suspensions, the demand for efficient and flexible aviation is gaining momentum once again. Before the onset of the coronavirus, we used to receive anywhere between 30-40 requests per day for charter flight bookings mostly for business travel. Post the lockdown, there was a sudden demand for evacuation flights. We were able to fly close to 17 evacuation flights with all the required approvals in place, during this time. Currently, if we talk about our two major segments, i.e., business and leisure travel, we are getting more requests for leisure travel as compared to corporate ones. People have learned to work from anywhere in the world, Zoom and Webex being the new private jet, therefore there has been a decline in Corporate and Business travel since the second lockdown was lifted.
Overall, our numbers have not risen when we compare it with the pre-COVID times but have considerably increased if compared with the entire aviation industry. Now, people are willing to opt for private jets rather than commercial flights, keeping in mind the safety of oneself during the pandemic.
With the resurgence in the travel industry post lockdown, do you see an uptick in bookings for any international destinations for leisure/business travel? If so, which are these?
After the air travel suspension was lifted for international destinations during August, we saw a major surge in revenge tourism. We are seeing a significant increase in the number of daily bookings since the vaccines were introduced and several popular destinations opened-up to Indian travellers. Leisure travel is picking up its slot again and is already showing the influx mainly because people have now learnt to work remotely from their own choice of place. Other than leisure and business travel, we also got at least 3-4 weekly requests from the parents of students who are planning to study abroad and starting their new semester in September-October.
Everyone is becoming more mindful of the ongoing threat of COVID that commercial airlines expose them to, and are willing to travel via a private jet which is currently their safest bet.