Helicopter and private jet operators, whose business generally soars during campaigning for elections, are worried about a much-reduced demand for their services ahead of the Bihar assembly polls beginning later this month. There have been reduced inquiries and advance bookings amid restrictions on canvassing for the polls in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Operators say they do not expect even 50% of bookings that they would have in the run-up to polling in a major state like Bihar because of the pandemic that has prompted social distancing norms and virtual meetings.
Shailendra Singh, the executive director and chief operating officer of Delhi-based Arrow Aircraft Sales and Private Charters, said around 14 of their jets are usually booked at least a month before an election like this. “But due to the pandemic, we are not even expecting half of 14 aircraft to be hired by politicians.”
Industry experts said if the situation had been normal, maximum flying would have been taking place from Delhi to Patna. All big operators based in north India would have been in demand if there was no pandemic.
Kanika Tekriwal, the CEO and founder of JetSetGo, a private jet operator in Delhi, said they have had all their 28 aircraft utilised during such election campaigns. “However, this year, we have not seen a single booking to date. There seems to be no physical rally for the Bihar elections.”
The pandemic has hit the commercial civil aviation industry the hardest. But the demand for private charters has seen an increase as compared to the pre-Covid times.
Captain R K Bali (retd), managing director of Business Aircraft Operators Association said private jets help one maintain social distancing thus ensuring minimal chances of getting infected. “A passenger can fly with no other person around him along with hassle-free travel. Hence, we saw increased demand for charters during this phase.”