News and Update

Flying High (Focus on Air Charter Service) Article in today's Economic Times
Leaving on a ‘private’ jet plane Rising demand for air charter in India

Taking a chartered flight is no longer a luxury, but slowly emerging as a need for corporates, who are willing to shell out extra money to use their man hours to the maximum. Today, private jets have become a regular mode of transport for industry heads in India. Big industrialists with private jets include the Hinduja Brothers, GVK Reddy, Shishir Bajaj, Anil and Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya, Rahul Bajaj, Sajjan Jindal and Ratan Tata, among others.

Market scenario and challenges

In the last few years, charter airlines have gained importance in the aviation sector, along with scheduled airlines. Indian airports witnessed 33.55 percent more general aviation flights during the last four years from 2006, according to research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Sanjay Saihgal – VP, Business Development, Deccan Charters Ltd, says, “Charter business has been growing steadily over the past few years. Businesses and HNIs have increasingly started realising the efficiency and other benefits of using air charter services. Charter is helping most customers to avoid long hours spent at the airports and also enables direct access to remoter locations.”

“At present, there are around 680 general aviation aircrafts, which are expected to reach 2,000 by 2020. Nearly US$12 bn is expected as investments in acquisitions in the next decade,” says Gautam Singhania – CMD, Raymond Ltd. The Indian charter fleet is dominated by Hawker Beechcraft with 35 aircrafts, Cessna Aircraft Company with 31 aircrafts and Bombardier with 24 aircrafts. These three companies together hold 66 percent of the market share, while the rest is shared between Dassault Falcon, Gulfstream, Embraer, Airbus and Boeing.

The increasing charter aviation movement in the country has encouraged airport authorities to construct additional facilities catering only to general aviation or non-schedule flights. However, these facilities lack various amenities to become a full-fledged Fixed Based Operator (FBO). At present, separate facilities for general aviation are available at Delhi and Mumbai airports. Such additional facilities for air charters at the governmentowned airports in cities such as Kolkata, Bhubaneswar and Trivandrum are in their planning stages.

Despite improving business scenario, the general aviation movement has witnessed around 12 percent decline in April-June period of 2011, as compared to the corresponding period in the previous year, reveals aircraft movement data available with the Airport Authority of India (AAI). Industry experts opine that several key challenges are preventing the sector from thriving in a booming economy. Charting out the challenges for the general aviation sector, Dhiraj Mathur – Executive Director and L e a d e r (Aerospace & Defence), Price w at e r h o u s e Coopers India says, “High taxes, limited infrastructure support in terms of hangar facilities and increased airport capacity, combined with frequent curfews in major cities that limit the availability of operating slots for chartered jets are some of the issues that the chartered/general aviation segment needs to cope with.”

Absence of well-equipped FBOs is a key hurdle plaguing the industry. The government’s lethargic approach in setting up FBOs for promoting general avia-tion movements in the country has led to poor infrastructure. Maintenance of charter aircrafts outside India due to lack of infrastructure, spare parts and adequate MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facilities, combined with dominance of highly-paid foreign pilots add to the aircraft operating costs.

Besides, the government’s decision to charge 25 percent customs duty on the import of business aircraft has impacted the purchase decision of potential customers. Further, the involvement of too many agencies for licensing a charter aircraft such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, the AAI and others lengthens the time taken for these aircraft to be operational.

Trends and opportunities

Charter aircrafts in India are either owned or leased, with former being the most in demand. Buying an aircraft provides long-term benefits to companies. However, risks are equally involved in buying aircrafts. This has given rise to the concept of fractional ownership scheme, which is quite popular in developed nations.

The fractional ownership model offers an individual or company the option to purchase a share of an aircraft, which can be as little as 1/16th of an aircraft, offering nearly 50 hours of flight time per year, to 1/2 of an aircraft depending on the needs of the operator. In addition, the management company provides all scheduling, flight planning, staffing, catering, maintenance, communications and insurance servi ces. “Although lucrative on paper, I believe that the fractional ownership model is difficult to sustain,” says Captain Karan Singh – CEO, Indo-Pacific Aviation Pvt. Ltd and MD, Business Aircraft Operators Association. Commenting on the new happenings in the segment, Clive Lewis – Vice President (Marketing), Swajas Air Charters says, “The recent transformation is that clients who used to charter aircraft and fly about 15–20 hours a month have decided to purchase their own aircraft. A few clients are going one step ahead by offering their aircraft on charter when it is not in use; the additional revenue earned will help cover operational overheads.”

The increasing scope of charter aviation provides opportunities for other industry players across the value chain, eventually acting as a catalyst in the national economic growth.

MRO service providers, FBOs, aircraft management, aircraft manufacturers and flight training schools are some of the industry players to benefit in the value chain over the foreseeable future.

Realising the local manufacturing potential, Mahindra Aerospace has already entered into manufacturing of small civilian aircraft for the general aviation market. These aicrafts are priced 20 percent lower than a Cessna aircraft. Many global firms including Hunt&Palmer PLC and Dubai-based Empire Aviation Group (EAG) have forayed into charter and aircraft management business in India.

Tremendous scope for growth also exists in charter airlines targeting pilgrimage, medical and adventure tourists. The concept of air ambulance is also emerging and has great long-term potential in the Indian market. This new air charter wing, which provides lifesaving services to patients and transports them from remote locations to cities, has witnessed a five-fold increase in demand over the last three years.

Road ahead

Growth in the general aviation market is expected to be around 12–15 percent in the coming years. Arjun Bafna – MD, Bafna Aviation Pvt. Ltd states, “The general aviation industry is expected to grow at a radical pace. There are ample opportunities opening up for everyone. The MRO space is almost untapped. With more than 1,500 aircrafts expected in the next decade, there is also a huge potential on the maintenance side.” Infrastructure development, flexibility in regulatory framework, government focus in structuring the air charter business, easing taxes/duties and construction of dedicated general aviation airports can take air charter operations in India to new highs.

Business air travel rebounded in Sept: IATA

Reuters / Geneva November 16, 2010, 16:06 IST

Business air travel rebounded further in September, rising 12.1 per cent from a year earlier, but remained below pre-recession levels, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said. The latest figures were buoyed by premium traffic to and from Asia and the Middle East, while trans-Atlantic markets were relatively weak, IATA said on Tuesday.

"Business travel continues to be the key to overall international travel markets, with business confidence moving higher in major economies but consumer confidence weakening," IATA said in its monthly premium traffic monitor.

September's 12.1 per cent annual increase in travellers in first or business class, compared with a 6.2 per cent rise in August. Growth in premium travel continues to outstrip the increase in numbers at the back of the plane, with economy class seats rising 9.3 per cent in September. However, these are now above pre-recession levels.

IATA said the rate of year-on-year increase in premium travel will slow in coming months because of sharp gains a year ago, but the extent of the slowdown in the fourth quarter now looked less than feared.


Himachal to set up Rs 1k cr intl airport near Shimla

Press Trust of India / New Delhi October 26, 2010, 16:13 IST

In a bid to make the state a global tourist attraction, Himachal Pradesh government has said it will set up its first international airport near Shimla, with about Rs 1,000 crore investment, under public private partnership mode.

The state government has initiated a slew of steps to promote tourism to increase its contribution to GDP to 10 per cent from the present 8.5 per cent, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said at an investment meet here last night.

The tourism sector contributes about Rs 3,600 crore to the Rs 44,000 crore state GDP.
Among the measures to promote tourism, the government has identified 40 acres each at three places in Shimla and Solan (near Shimla) districts to set up the Rs 1,000 crore international airport.
The final decision on the spot would be taken soon, Dhumal said.
Besides, the number of helipads in the state would be increased to 70 from the existing 60, he added. The government plans to set up these 10 helipads at Sirmour, Kinnaur and Mandi districts.
Dhumal said the government has identified three heli-taxi operators and is likely to sign pact with them within a month for connecting all district headquarters through these services.
UP to take call on commercial viability of international airport in Kushinagar

Virendra Singh Rawat / New Delhi/ Lucknow October 19, 2010, 0:43 IST

Uttar Pradesh government will soon take a call on the commercial viability of the proposed international airport in Kushinagar estimated to cost Rs 829 crore.

While, the state government had already acquired about 167 acres for the main airport, the rest of the land both for the airport and the commercial enclave are yet to be acquired. The state government had notified 13 villages for the acquisition of roughly 640 acres.

Four infrastructure companies — GMR, GVK, L&T and Gammon India — are in fray after qualifying the Request for Qualification (RfQ) stage.

The project, which had already been given in-principle approval and environment clearance by the Centre, has also received the Central No Objection Certificate (NoC) recently.

“Now, that the project has been cleared, the state infrastructure and industrial development commissioner (IIDC) will convene a meeting next month to discuss the commercial viability and funding issues related to it,” UP tourism secretary and State Tourism Development Corporation managing director Avnish Awasthi told Business Standard.

However, he said that any airport functioned with the coordination of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Customs department. The necessary coordination with these agencies will also be followed up, he said.

The project seeks to boost Buddhist Circuit tourism in the eastern parts of UP.

The state government already owned 100 acres of land in the form of an old airstrip built in 1946 for emergency services. The proposed airport will have a 3,200 metre long airstrip.

Awasthi said all the issues pertaining to land acquisition had been resolved to the satisfaction of the land owners and farmers.

“The government has paid nearly Rs 140 crore to land owners as compensation. The land owners, who do not live in the notified villages are the only ones left out now,” he said.

The airport will connect Buddhist Circuit directly with countries accounting for maximum backpackers, including Japan, Myanmar, Korea, China, Thailand, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.


India will need 1,000 aircraft over 20 yrs: Airbus CEO

Reuters / Bangalore October 1, 2010, 13:02 IST

EADS' unit Airbus expects the Indian aviation market will require more than 1,000 aircraft in the next 20 years, its chief executive Tom Enders said on Friday.

US rival Boeing, which sees India's expanding aviation sector needing 1,150 commercial jets valued at $130 billion over 20 years, is set to tie up a $5.8-billion defence deal with India, ahead of President Barack Obama's November visit to the country.

A burgeoning middle class that is pushing up demand for air travel, rising new entrants in the country's airline sector and India's plan to overhaul its defence systems make India an attractive market for the likes of Airbus and Boeing.


Madhya Pradesh invites airlines to develop routes

Shashikant Trivedi / New Delhi/ Bhopal August 19, 2010, 0:25 IST

Apparently to promote tourism, the state government has readied a plan to develop its own domestic air operations. The state cabinet today decided to offer freebies, including '8 crore seat occupancy for its officials and cent percent compensation on value added tax on ATF (Aviation Trubine Fuel) and security cover to private airliner that can establish air links between prominent cities like Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Khajuraho and Satna.

State cabinet today has given its nod to the plan and tenders to invite bids for the project will be floated soon.

The private airliner will be allowed to establish air links between Indore, Bhopal, Satna, Jabalpur, Gwalior and Khajuraho for ten-seater aircraft. The government will buy four seats on regular basis for its officials and will compensate to the private career if these reserved seats remain unwritten by government. The private airliner will however be allowed to sale those seats in open market but will not be reimbursed for the same. The annual expenses are estimated to touch '8 crore per career on state exchequer,” said a government spokesperson.

The department of finance had raised objections to this proposal of the department of tourism headed by Iqbal Singh Bains who is also secretary to the state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

The state commercial department has also agreed to offer compensation on value added tax at 4 per cent on turbo prop engine jets and 28.75 per cent on other planes.

“There is a plan,” the spokesperson said, “to deploy security at airports to the airline operator but they will have to pay nominal fee of Rs 2500 per landing for ambulance and fire brigade.” A committee has been constituted to complete the process of floating tenders.


Air traffic in India continues upward trend

Press Trust of India / New Delhi August 18, 2010, 20:25 IST

For the seventh month in a row, air traffic in India continued its upward growth trajectory with domestic airlines carrying almost 500,000 more passengers in July compared to the same month last year.

The latest data collated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shows that during January-July this year, the airlines flew 175.61 lakh passengers as against 145.35 lakh flown during the same period last year, recording a growth of 17 per cent.

Leading the traffic figures were Jet Airways and its low cost subsidiary JetLite, which together flew almost 11 lakh passengers. Following them was Kingfisher and its subsidiary Kingfisher Red at 8.15 lakh, Air India (Domestic) 7.08 lakh.

Closely following them was no-frill carrier IndiGo which carried 6.91 lakh passengers, SpiceJet with 5.4 lakh and GoAir 2.28 lakh.

But on a stand alone basis, July this year has seen eight domestic airlines carrying the least number of passengers in the last four months. The fall in passenger flow was mainly because of the holiday season coming to an end.

The official figures also showed that there were 1,277 passenger related complaints in July, primarily relating to lost baggage, staff misbehaviour and refund of tickets.


Chandigarh airport's new terminal to be ready by Dec

Vijay C Roy / New Delhi/ Chandigarh August 10, 2010, 0:55 IST

If everything goes well, the new terminal building at the Chandigarh airport, which would cater to 500 passengers, is expected to be completed by December. With an estimated project cost of Rs 78 crore, the new terminal building with an area of about 12,150 square metres will be fully air-conditioned with modern passenger facilities, three aerobridges, with visual docking guidance system, escalators, elevators, baggage conveyor belts and CCTVs.

The work on the project started by November 11, 2007 and the Planning Commission has set a deadline of December for its completion.

Space constraint in the existing building prohibits the private carriers from commencing their operations. International flights would also start functioning after the project is completed.

The existing building at the Airport can handle only 150 passengers at a time.

Talking to Business Standard, airport controller Sunil Dutt said: “The work on the new project is going on and we expect that the new terminal building would be completed by December. At present the airport is handling 11 flight per day and four domestic airlines Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, Goa Air and Kingfisher Airlines are operating.”

According to sources, there are proposals to start weekly or bi-weekly international flights to Dubai, Middle East, once the new terminal is ready.