The ban by the Election Commission (EC) on rallies in poll-bound states since January 8, 2022 due to COVID-19, has hit the business of charter flight operators. Just 15 percent of the 400 flight hours per month are election-related travel at this stage, the operators said. “Election-related travel had started to pick up around mid-December, but the ban on rallies completely stopped most of the election-related travel,” said Rajan Mehra, CEO, Club One Air. Electionrelated travel is very limited, added Mehra, former India head of Qatar Airways. Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and Founder, JetSetGo Aviation, told PTI that as there is a ban on rallies due to COVId-19, the company has seen only 70 percent of inquiries for election-related travel this year as compared to last year.
“Since ban on physical rallies have been extended, we don’t see much flights happening for elections this time for rallies,” Tekriwal noted. JetSetGo Aviation and Club One Air have a fleet of 18 and 10 aircraft, respectively, to operate charter flights. While election-related travel is not picking up for charter companies, the overall scenario for business aviation has been very good, Mehra stated. Right after the first COVID-19 wave, safety has become an issue of paramount importance, he mentioned. “There has been a regularity of travel in private jets. Before COVID-19, if we would on an average see around 200 flying hours per month, that has gone to up to 400 flight hours per month,” he stated. “It might pick up once the EC announces removal of ban on rallies; but right now it is 10 to 15 per cent for most operators,” he mentioned. Last year, in the election season, approximately 30 to 40 per cent of the travel was for election rallies, he stated. Tekriwal said JetSetGo Aviation used to achieve its “major numbers” from business travel before the pandemic. However, leisure travel brings the major share of business right now.