“If there is one thing that high net worth individuals and corporates do not have, it is time,” says Sanjay Saihgal, VP (Business Development) of Deccan Charters.

The statement is the selling point of private aircraft charters, a booming business in India courtesy an increasing number of business travellers. The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport even opened an international terminal for private jet owners. The Delhi airport is also soon expected to reach a decision on an integrated domestic-cum-international terminal complex for LCC and private jets.

For a businessperson who wants to do more, a rented private helicopter, turboprop or jet is a convenient business tool. Time is not wasted in commute and waiting at the airport. Instead of planning the itinerary around the commercial airline schedule, the aircraft flies at the businessman’s convenience.

The time taken from check in to boarding the plane is just 15 to 30 minutes. A charter employee picks the guest outside the departure area personalised service is another attraction. Capt Puri says, “There will be someone to receive the guest outside the departure area. Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi even have separate lounges for charters. A car, which will be waiting for the guest, will take him to the craft.”

“Since the aircraft waits for you, you don’t have to change your plans. Private jets get you in and out of smaller airports. It gets you to airports where commercial airlines do not go. In case of smaller helicopters, it can fly you straight to your destination,” says Saihgal. There are more than 100 airstrips that are not covered by commercial crafts in the country.

“What the charters do,” further explains Capt R Puri, head of Air Charters India run by STIC Group, “is that they pinpoint the closest airstrip and helipad to the destination of the client.” The major business aircrafts, from helicopters to turboprops and jets, used by the charters are Eurocopter, King Air, Pilatus, Citation Cessna, Hawker, Enstrom, Bell, Beech, Augusta, Avanti, Embraer, Gulfstream, Falcon, Bombardier and sometimes, even an Air Bus.

“While turboprops are taken for flying between metro and non-metro airports, jets are taken between two metros with good airport facilities,” says Imran Ahmed, Manager – Business Development, Titan Aviation India. The charter is chosen, depending on required passenger capacity, amount of baggage, budget, destination, required flying hours and cruising speed. “In general aircraft, types are classified into two; turboprop aircraft, which is driven by propeller engines, and jet aircraft, which is driven by jet engines. Turboprop aircrafts are cheaper to operate but they fly slower than a jet. For example, a turboprop would take 1.5 hours to fly a sector that would take only 1 hour on a jet. Since the jets fly faster and save time, they are expensive and in general, they would cost twice that of turboprop,” adds Ahmed.

The cost depends on the itinerary, the sector, duration of the trip, waiting time, overnights required, and other flight clearance charges. “The minimum cost for a one hour trip from Delhi to Agra and back in a pressurised cabin aircraft with four hours of ground time will be `132,000. A five-seater entry level jet from Mumbai to Nagpur and back will cost `295,000,” says Capt Puri.

Jets score when it comes to in-flight amenities like cabin attendants and lavatories – a latter is a must for long haul flights. “High end luxury jets come with a galley system for catering as well as a privately enclosed lavatory and washroom area. Corporate jets are equipped with Internet and Satcom, and a digital multimedia system for entertainment,” says Ahmed. Though some air charters serve alcohol for clients on luxury jets, governing body Directorate General of Civil Aviation dictates that alcohol can only be served on international flights.

The noise level is another deciding factor. Pressurised passenger cabins are a must for lucid conversations inside the craft. “Most of those who opt for private crafts do not want people to know where they are going. They conduct business and meetings inside the aircraft, and most importantly, head back home for dinner with the family,” adds Saihgal of benefits of renting a private aircraft.

Last minutes trips are the norm for business travellers. With private charters, there is no worry about availability of flights and seats. “Once we see the availability and the quote has been negotiated, we required just two hours of mobilisation time,” says Capt Puri.

Deccan Charters, Taj Air and Business Jets India Private Ltd (BJETS) have gone a step ahead with Powerfly, its corporate membership programme. “It allows companies access to a fleet of helicopters, and light, mid size and heavy jets on a corporate timeshare basis. They do not have bother about costs of maintenance and operations. The clients have to pay only for flying hours, which range from `70,000 to `3 lakh per hour,” explains Saihgal. Deccan Charters also recently started intra-state aviation services in Gujarat, prompting the state to reduce tax on aeroplane fuel from 30 percent to 4 percent for non-scheduled flights operating within Gujarat.

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