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Posted at: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM; last updated: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM (IST)

Polls on horizon, aviation sector looks to fly high

Vijay C Roy in Chandigarh
Polls on horizon, aviation sector looks to fly high
Five states, nearly 16 crore voters and hundreds of candidates and netas ready to use their lung power, hopping from one place to another — that’s the big-banner spectacle kicking off from early next month. This must be a good time for someone in the business of ferrying netas. Aviation industry sources say it could be a good time for charter companies ready for pie in the sky.

An analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) says the total expenditure on air travel was Rs 1.71 crore by seven political parties during the previous Punjab elections in 2012. Uttar Pradesh politicians belonging to eight parties spent Rs 21.12 crore on air travel in the last elections.

The ADR says with AAP joining the list of state parties of Punjab, the expenditure may to go up further. These spends may further head north if we look at non-political, star campaigners. Charter operators say helicopter is the most desired flying machine during polls because of its ability to land almost anywhere. “In Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the campaign season would see at least 30 choppers being hired by main parties,” said an operator. Many operators say though they have received a lot of queries, bookings are yet to be confirmed. 

The charter industry says that besides fixed rentals, charges are made according to flying hours, plus parking payments are levied at airports.  

Rajeev Wadhwa, chairman and CEO, Baron Group, says there is a potential business of Rs 100 crore for the charter operators during these elections. “Elections happen once in many years. Most of the demand comes from corporates and other private users of air charter service. It’s only during multi-state polls that the helicopters gets an edge,” says Rahul Muchhal, founder & director, Accretion Aviation.

The VVIPs normally hire bigger twin-engine aircraft. Single-engine helicopters are used by the second line of leadership. 

Industry sources said the demand for twin engine aircraft is going to be higher. A senior official in charter Industry said: “We have limited number of twin engine aircraft, so charges could rise further as parties get into the last-minute rush for choppers.” 

Among twin-engine helicopters, Eurocopter 155 and Agusta-Westland 139 are the birds of choice. The operators usually charge Rs 60,000 to 85,000 per flying hour for a single engine chopper while twin-engine helicopters or business jets cost Rs 2.5-3 lakh per hour.

Industry experts say operators are offering two options for payment. “While some operators demand fixed charges for the number of days an aircraft is hired, there are others who charge according to number of hours of flying.

There are around 130 air charter service operators in the country. While the fleet size of non-scheduled aircraft operators, often called private jet operators, more than doubled in the last decade, their industry body — Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) — says that business aviation in India remains much below its potential. In 2005, there were 197 business aircraft in India. In 2015, it was 487. But BAOA claims the sector charted a meager 2 per cent growth in the past five years as only nine aircraft were added on an average every year during 2010-2015.

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