Demand for private jets, helicopters likely to rise up to 40 pc during LS polls

Surge in Demand for Private Jets and Helicopters Expected During LS Polls
Surge in Demand for Private Jets and Helicopters Expected During LS Polls
Surge in Demand for Private Jets and Helicopters Expected During LS Polls

New Delhi | As political parties prepare to fight it out in the Lok Sabha polls, the demand for chartered planes and helicopters is expected to jump by up to 40 per cent compared to the previous general elections, according to industry experts.

Helicopters are anticipated to be more in demand compared to fixed-wing aircraft as choppers will help in providing accessibility to rural and remote areas in a shorter time.

"There will be an exponential demand for private jets and the demand is expected to outstrip the availability of chartered planes and helicopters. There is a limited supply of chartered planes and helicopters," Club One Air CEO Rajan Mehra told PTI.

With increased demand, some players will be taking chartered planes and helicopters on lease during the general elections for which the dates are expected to be announced in the coming days.

Chartered plane and helicopter services are charged on an hourly basis.

The industry experts opined that the prices can vary between Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 5.25 lakh per hour for a chartered plane. For a helicopter, the hourly charge will be around Rs 1.5 lakh.

Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) Managing Director Captain R K Bali told PTI that during the Lok Sabha polls, the demand for private chartered planes and helicopters is expected to increase by 30 to 40 per cent compared to the previous elections.

Official data showed that there were 112 Non-Scheduled Operators (NSOPs) at the end of December 2023.

Generally, NSOPs are entities that do not have a particular fixed schedule and fly when there is a requirement.

Since the demand will be high, players are expected to take planes on lease for chartered operations, especially helicopters, Bali said and added that there are around 111-112 NSOPs and out of them, 40-50 per cent operate single aircraft.

He said that NSOPs are estimated to have around 450 planes, including choppers.

These operators have aircraft and helicopters, with seating capacities varying from 3 to 37. The planes include Falcon 2000, Bombardier Global 5000, Twin Otter DHC-6-300, Hawker Beechcraft, Gulfstream G-200 and Cessna Citation 560XL, as per the data available with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Most of the aircraft and helicopters have seating capacities of less than 10, the data showed.

Mehra said the size of the chartered fleet will be around 350 and out of them, about 175 are helicopters.

A chartered operator, Club One has a fleet of 5 Falcon 2000, 4 Cessna Citation and 1 Bombardier CRJ200.

"Political leaders will opt for helicopters to travel to small towns and hence more demand is likely for the choppers," Mehra said.

There are several brokers in the segment and sometimes they book a specific number of hours for a chartered plane and later, those hours are sold to the end users, including political parties, Mehra said.

Bali said there are a lot of brokers providing chartered plane services and the hourly pricing will also depend on the negotiations and generally, hours are booked in bulk.

Membership of BAOA is voluntary.

An executive, who has been in the chartered aircraft services business for more than two decades, also said there is a huge demand this time and some players are taking aircraft and helicopters on lease for their clients.

On the condition of anonymity, the executive also claimed that the hourly rates for helicopters for the upcoming elections have gone up significantly. While chartered helicopters are hired at a rate of around Rs 1.5 lakh per hour. In some cases, the hourly rates are even touching Rs 3.5 lakh, the executive added.

Broadly, Mehra said the price can range between Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 5.25 lakh per hour for a chartered aircraft.

The ruling BJP incurred expenses totalling more than Rs 250 crore on aircraft/ helicopters, as per the party's annual audited accounts for 2019-20 submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI).

The amount shelled out by the Congress party towards election travelling expenses in 2019-20 stood at over Rs 126 crore. The party did not mention aircraft/helicopter expenses separately in its annual audited accounts for that financial year.

The last Lok Sabha elections were held in April and May of 2019.

According to veteran elections analyst N Bhaskara Rao, the total expenditure during the upcoming Lok Sabha polls is expected to be around Rs 1.20 lakh crore.

"2024 Lok Sabha poll expenditure alone will involve around one lakh twenty thousand crores, of this Election Commission of India (ECI) is estimated to spend hardly twenty per cent (expenditure on new EVMs is not included)," he said.

He also said the price for hiring a chartered plane has almost remained steady since the pandemic and the players in the segment do not tend to outprice each other.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for private charters has remained steady, especially with people looking mainly for hygiene and safety factors.

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