Bangalore, May 16 2021: Hit hard by renewed lockdowns all over India, in response to the second wave of Covid-19, commercial airline operators in India are looking at new business opportunities to stay afloat. And the preferred route is to offer their fleet for charter -- by groups as small as 5 and as large as 300.
Spicejet has been touting charter flight as: "The safest way to fly from anywhere to anywhere... in the comfort of your private charter". The airline Offers a Beechcraft C90 aircraft for up to 5 passengers, a Bombardier Q400 for 90 passengers and an Airbus A330-900 Neo for 200 - 300 passengers.
"Think charter, book Indigo" is the mantra offered by another Indian civilian carrrier. Indigo offers an Airbus 320 for 180 passengers, Airbus 321 for 232 passengers and an ATR aircraft for up to 78 passengers.
The airlines in India compete with pure charter flight providers like Delhi-based Air Luxxis, who own no aircraft of their own but offer charter or time share on executive aircraft like a Citation CJ2 or a Hawker 850/900.
Air Luxxis founder-CEO was interviewed recently by , Kilpatrick Aviation in a round table on the topic: "How is the aviation industry responding to Covid-19 pandemic". The consensus among panelists: "The aviation industry has been hit very hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps even harder than 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis put together. The current setback began with the travel restrictions, collapse in demand among travelers, and closure of airports....Airlines had to ground their fleets with only activity being cargo operations transporting supplies and repatriation flights for citizens."
Charter flights of full size aircraft are being used to overcome country specific restrictions by operating 'Bubble flights" for similarly situated passengers: case in point, the special Quantas flight from India that touched down in Darwin, yesterday with 80 Australian nationals stranded in India ever since their government banned commercial flights from India.
Flight to nowhere
Perhaps the most bizarre innovation to overcome Covid-induced loss of business was the story reported by Bloomberg a few days ago: Hyun Jung-a boarded a flight from South Korea’s Incheon Airport. Around two hours later, she was back in the same airport and loading up on duty-free shopping, despite never landing in another country.The Air Busan Co. flight, organized by Lotte Duty Free for its VIP customers, didn’t cost her a cent. Because the route briefly departed Korean airspace and went over a Japanese island, the 130 passengers on board qualified to shop at duty-free stores in Seoul typically reserved for people who have traveled internationally.Destination-less flights like these are an attempt by duty-free operators to salvage an industry decimated by Covid-19.