Chapman Freeborn blog

India's private jet fleet size boosted by billionaires and business elite

While the slow economy and weak rupee has taken its toll in the last 12 months, India’s long term economic outlook is still promising – supporting predictions that India’s private jet market could soar in the coming years.

According to the recently published Knight Frank Global Wealth Report 2014, India’s billionaire count is set to double in the next 10 years – overtaking countries including the UK and France.

Private jet ownership remains the exclusive preserve of the super wealthy in India. Be it the Ambani, Mittal or Tata families, private jets are viewed as the ultimate status symbol by the country’s elite.

Financing a private jet makes sense for travellers who fly for more than 400 hours in a year – but the costs associated with jet acquisition are very high – including staff salaries, fuel costs and high operating and maintenance fees.

Ownership of a private jet is therefore limited to only a handful of individuals, but there are also a growing number of charter providers ready to serve the Indian business elite’s soaring demand for private travel.

The most common private jets among the top Indian corporate houses are Dassault Falcon, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Embraer and Cessna Citation types. Jets such as the Cessna Citation CJ2 and the Embraer Phenom 100 are highly popular – primarily due to their more economical operating costs.

According to Chapman Freeborn’s New Delhi team, 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 charter requirements.

Large-cabin, long-range private 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 20-75 executive passengers – although such aircraft are currently in short supply in the Indian market.

Unsurprisingly, given the ongoing economic pressures, price continues to be an important factor for many Indian clients – and smaller aircraft types including turboprops and light jets have risen in popularity during the downturn.

A recent industry survey also suggested that around 60 percent of flyers would be more flexible with their schedule if it would help lower the cost, with only 40 percent demanding strict adherence to timings.

Although growth has been slower than expected, private jet manufacturers still see India as a key region for future sales. Of the emerging markets, only Brazil, Mexico, China and Venezuela have grown faster in terms of fleet size in the last five years.

According to the Bombardier Business Aircraft Forecast 2013, India is forecasted to take delivery of 1,340 business aircraft in the next two decades – bringing its total fleet size to 1,415 before the end of 2032.

Photo: The Gulfstream G550 large-cabin, ultra-long-range private jet is a popular choice for Indian travellers flying to international destinations.