Flying may have resumed in fits and spurts, but air travel is far from smooth. And so, India’s wealthy are looking at private jet travel as a viable option. But what does it cost to fly private? And is it the same as chartering a flight? Here’s a no-fuss guide, in case you are planning your next flight out:
What’s the difference between a private jet and a chartered flight? ... more...
While the terms private jet and chartered flight are used interchangeably, says Sachit Wadhwa of Book My Charters, private jets are usually 4- to 18-seater aircraft and may be owned or chartered. A chartered flight is any aircraft, whether an 8-seater private jet or a 180-seater airliner, exclusively rented for an itinerary.
A chartered flight is an unscheduled flight that is not part of a regular airline’s routing. With a charter flight, you rent the entire aircraft. There are several types of charter flights, explains Ameerh Naran of Vimana Private Jets, such as Group Charters or individual client flights.
What kind of aircraft are available to fly private/charter within India?
Across various aviation companies, there is a wide variety of aircraft on offer. These include everything from single engine turbo-props to light jets, mid-size jets, heavy jets and airliners. The seating capacity of these aircraft ranges from 6 seats to 180 seats. The choice of aircraft is dependent on the itinerary, the range of the aircraft, the amenities required on-board and the number of passengers travelling. Models include Pilatus PC12, Cessna Citation Cj2+, Cessna Citation XL, Beechcraft Hawker 850XP, Beechcraft Hawker 900XP, Gulfstream 150, Dassault Falcon 2000 & Bombardier Global 6000.
Does it really mean you can fly anywhere, anytime? How much notice do you need to give before flying?
It’s easier and quicker if you’re all Indian nationals on the flight. For instance, flights to civil and defense airports for Indian nationals can be activated in as little as two to three hours. But in case there are foreign nationals flying, necessary permissions can take anything from one working day to up to seven working days, in case the airport in question is a defense airport like Goa.
How are these flights priced in comparison to commercial flights?
In short, it’s considerably more expensive than a standard commercial flight. Owning a private jet comes with a minimum price tag of $3 million for a pre-owned light jet, to more than $50 million for a heavy jet like a Global 6000 or Gulfstream 650ER. However, chartering a private jet can be as low as Rs1.5 lakh per hour in an aircraft like Cessna Citation II to as high as Rs3.5 lakh for a Dassault Falcon 2000. Turboprops are comparatively cheaper, with a price ranging from Rs85,000 per hour to Rs1.25 lakh per hour. Roughly, a return flight from Delhi to Mumbai in Business Class on a commercial plane normally costs Rs1 lakh, whereas, on a private jet, it would be a minimum of Rs10 lakh.
That said, there are times when it makes economic sense. Private aviation pricing depends on several factors including aircraft availability, airport landing fees, and time between flights. But, if you are travelling as a group of people (a family/ friends / a company/ delegation etc) who normally fly Business or First Class anyway, private jet charters can be very competitive and—sometimes—comparable to commercial First Class fares, with the added bonus of extra convenience, less time and of course, loads of luxury.
In certain circumstances, you can fly privately for cheaper: if you sign up for a membership, for instance, or take advantage of services such as ferry flights (fixed-route charter flights discounted at up to 90 percent of the usual cost, if you’re very lucky). The key is to always ask the aviation company or your travel agent for any offers, and to let them know if you have any flexibility in your travel dates/times.
What are the benefits of flying private?
For the purpose of comparison, it’s as different as using a taxi or a public bus for city commute, says Wadhwa. The major advantages of chartering an aircraft are:
How do companies maintain client privacy?
Maintaining client privacy is one of the most important aspects of private charter services, says Santosh Kumar Sharma of Foresee Aviation, which is known to have worked with everyone from Heads of State, to Hollywood stars and corporate honchos. “As a company policy, we have never disclosed details of our existing customers to acquire new customers,” he said. Wadhwa adds: “At any point in time, even within our organization, only three people know of the passenger’s itinerary and the passenger list—the relationship manager, the operations coordinator and the CEO.” Naran adds: “All Vimana Private Jets’ employee devices are encrypted and are secured to the highest levels to ensure that there are no leaks of personal information.”
Are there any extraordinary demands on these flights by customers?
“We maintain a personal dossier of our frequent flyers and keep record of their likes and dislikes,” shares Wadhwa. “We focus on personalization to ensure a memorable flying experience, and I can share two such anecdotes.
One of our frequent fliers prefers early morning departures and likes reading a variety of newspapers on-board. During one such flight, we realized that there are times when he forgets to carry his reading glasses on the journey. From that day onwards, we ensure that we keep a set of spare reading glasses on-board each time he flies with us. We also offer a service where we ‘Indianise’ an international flying experience by serving your favorite desi meal and playing your favorite Bollywood movie on-board. It sometimes is a challenge to arrange for a good dal makhni in a European nation, but we have always managed to deliver on our promise!”
So what kind of food/alcohol is served on board?
As per DGCA guidelines, alcohol cannot be served on domestic flights, even if you’re flying private. However, food can be an elaborate affair. While on small aircraft, such as turbo-props and light jets, you’re likely to be served mostly dry snacks like sandwiches, wraps, assorted nuts and cookies, midsize and heavy jets can offer up multi-course feasts tailored to the preferences of every passenger! Wadhwa confesses, “For our frequent flyers, we also uplift their choice of meals from their favorite restaurant and serve them onboard. There have also been times where we have prepared and served authentic home-cooked meals to passengers who are always on the move.”
Are the cabin crew especially trained for these kinds of flights?
Yes, cabin crew undergo special training, especially on passenger safety.
Is there in-flight entertainment? What about WiFi?
This depends entirely on the aircraft. In general, smaller aircraft will have less such perks. For midsized aircraft and heavy jets, state-of-the-art entertainment systems are possible. For long-haul flights, companies will often ensure your choice of films/shows is available on-board. That said, we recommend downloading your favourite shows and digital magazines on your personal device.
Do they arrive/depart at normal airports? Or are there special airports/terminals in India for these flights?
While some cities have a dedicated airport or terminal for charter operations, other cities that have only one airport facilitate VVIP movement for charter passengers at those airports. In Mumbai, charter flights operate from the Corporate Aviation Terminal, Kalina, which is a terminal reserved only for private jet movements. It has dedicated lounges, security and an Immigrations area. In Bengaluru, most charter flights operate from HAL airport, which is situated within the city, as compared to Bangalore International Airport from where the commercial airlines operate.
Are there medical facilities on-board?
Medical patients are transferred on specially configured aircraft. These flights have medical crew on-board and can also carry equipment such as an oxygen cylinder and ventilator based on the patient’s condition.
Can you buy flying time in bulk? What about membership programmes?
Yes, there are different options available, depending on the aviation company and your own requirements. Often, programmes require a membership fee payment and then allow you to purchase bulk flying hours in advance at a discounted rate. This works out much cheaper than buying and maintaining your own private jet. As with any private jet charter, look out for hidden costs and demand complete transparency upfront.
Do normal aviation/quarantine rules apply to passengers on these flights or are they exempt?
Yes, normal aviation/quarantine rules are applicable to chartered flights. They are required to adhere to DGCA guidelines. Most private jet companies ensure the aircraft are deep cleaned before boarding and crew are regularly tested pre-flight for Covid-19.
With inputs from Ameerh Naran, CEO Vimana Private Jets, Sachit Wadhwa, co-founder of Book My Charters, Santosh Kumar Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Foresee Aviation.
Important Note:This website NEVER solicits for Money or Donations. Please beware of anyone requesting/demanding money on behalf of IRI. Thanks. Disclaimer: This website has NO affiliation with the Government-run site of Indian Railways. This site does NOT claim 100% accuracy of fast-changing Rail Information. YOU are responsible for independently confirming the validity of information through other sources.