India’s private jet charter industry has a bright future – but it must adapt to thrive
Since the economic downturn of 2009-10 the private jet market in India has made a gradual recovery with wealthy individuals and large corporations resuming their travel plans which were put on hold during the recession.
In addition to high charter demand from major Tier-I cities like Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad, it is now smaller Tier-II and Tier-III cities which are helping to fuel India’s private jet market growth.
For example, even cities with populations of under two million like Ludhiana in Punjab are seeing a significant rise in private jet charter traffic – a clear sign that India’s wealth and international business interests expand far beyond the major metropolitan hubs.
With demand now coming in from Punjab in the north to Kerala in the south, it is easy to see how India has secured its position among the world’s top five private jet growth markets.
Driven in part by the country’s property and manufacturing boom, India is experiencing economic growth which in turn fuels demand for private jets.
India’s middle class is now estimated to stand at around 250 million – but the country also boasts a rapidly growing number of home-grown millionaires. According to a recent Forbes report, there are also now 46 billionaires living in India with a combined net worth of $176.3bn
It is anticipated that the private jet market will double in size in the next five years, and in a recent business aircraft forecast, Bombardier estimated that India’s fleet will increase from just 125 private jets in 2012 to 1,415 in 2032.
In terms of ownership, the most popular private jets currently in India are the Cessna Citation CJ2 and the Embraer Phenom 100 – primarily due to the low cost of ownership and their more economical operating costs.
The highest charter demand is for CJ2 aircraft, followed by midsize private jet types like the Citation XL and Hawker 800 which are regularly used for tourist and executive air travel requirements.
Large-cabin, long-range jets like the Gulfstream G550 and Dassault Falcon 2000LX also find favour with the top brass of multinational corporations with international travel requirements.
There is also high demand for larger jets that cater for 25-75 passengers – although such aircraft are currently in short supply in the Indian market.
Chetan Khurana, Charter Sales Manager at Chapman Freeborn India, believes that the future of Indian aviation is bright but there are some challenges to overcome including overcapacity – partly caused by corporations buying their own private jets. High fuel costs and rising airport charges are also impacting the market, as well as competition from foreign carriers.
Khurana says: “Government needs to be proactive in promoting aviation in India – especially private jet aviation. There is a strong need for government to pitch in and safeguard the future growth of private aviation – including promoting the sector more to under-utilised airports.”
On the subject of market competition, he adds: “From a charter broker point of view, private jet operators in India are both our friends and competitors because clients have a habit of approaching the operators first.”
However, as an international private jet charter specialist, Chapman Freeborn increasingly works in close partnership with Indian operators – particularly since the launch of its Global Broker initiative to help local providers offer their clients more comprehensive global coverage.
Shailendra Seth, Director at Chapman Freeborn India says: “With over 30 offices worldwide, we can turn the market conditions to our advantage by teaming up with Indian operators to arrange sorties for them that would not be feasible on their own jet fleet or are in geographical markets they are unfamiliar with.”
He adds: “The Indian private jet market is growing all the time but it is currently fragmented, so we are looking at a period of consolidation over the next year. We will also be forming more strategic partnerships with other brokers and local aircraft operators to further increase the footprint of Chapman Freeborn in the Indian market.”
Photograph: The Cessna Citation CJ2+ is currently India’s most popular private type. The CJ2+ features excellent takeoff and landing capability, as well as a comfortable cabin for up to six passengers.