Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and Founder, JetSetGo Aviation shares her perspective on the growth potential of private aviation as well as her company
JetSetGo will continue to focus on the upper end of the market with larger play in either mid-sized or the larger long-range private jets. The company has a dedicated fleet of 20 aircrafts and a few others are on marketing contracts with us on a lease, globally. Excerpts from the interview:
How would you explain the unfolding scenario of private aviation in India?
Given the present disruption in-flight services, charters offer a high degree of flexibility and dependability. With more flyers becoming mindful of their safety, the demand for chartered aircraft is at an all-time high. The increasing complexity and disruptions in flying commercial, for which there is no clarity on when or what the new normal will be, are resulting in a significant spike in demand for private aviation.
The private charter business is therefore witnessing an all-time high demand right now. With safety added to the list of other benefits flying private offers, such as on-board comfort, ease of booking, discretion, speed of service, timing, seamless ground transportation, etc., the industry is all set to witness a boom like never before.
There has been a paradigm shift in the consumer’s behavior and the private aviation the sector has witnessed sustained growth. JetSetGo itself has witnessed a nine-fold increase in booking requests since the pandemic hit, of which 70% guests are new flyers.
Also, after the air travel suspension was lifted for both domestic and international destinations, charters are witnessing a lot of leisure travel requests out of safety concerns. As a result, we are experiencing many international one-way trips from India as people are looking forward to leisure trips. The international destinations that are currently witnessing maximum demand include Maldives, Russia, Greece, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany etc.
What is the impact of the pandemic on the private jets’ segment?
The demand for efficient and flexible aviation is gaining momentum in these unprecedented times. Before the onset of the coronavirus, we used to receive anywhere between 30-40 requests per day for charter flight bookings mostly for business flights. Post the lockdown, there was a sudden demand for evacuation flights. We were able to fly close to 17 evacuation flights with all the required approvals in place, during this time. Our numbers have not risen when we compare it with the pre -COVID times but have considerably increased if compared with the entire aviation industry.
Recently, the travel ban was lifted for domestic and international destinations and we have seen a substantial surge in requests for leisure travel. Several popular destinations are now opening up for Indian travelers and vaccines are being rolled out across the globe. We have seen a nine-fold increase in booking requests out of which 70 per cent are new clients of JetSetGo. We have seen approximately 10-12 booking queries each day ever since the air travel suspension was lifted for the Maldives and other European countries.
What is your expansion plan?
Our goal at JetSetGo has always been to aid consumers to get from point A to point B in the quickest time possible. This goal, plus our research into Sky Shuttles means we look at making air travel accessible to all and cost-efficient.
We are also in the process of setting up an aircraft financing and leasing arm at Gujarat’s Gift city and are in the process of acquiring pre-owned aircrafts. The venture will be a fully owned unit. Additionally, our focus is on enabling urban air mobility in congested cities of India by using eVTOLs, as we firmly believe that everyone should be able to use an air taxi at a price similar to an Uber. We are working towards turning this vision into reality with JetSetGo’s ‘Sky Shuttle’ service. This service enables the user to book a ferry ride at the cost of an uber and reach their destination with a same-day return without any wait time.
What sort of challenges do you face in running the operation? What are your suggestions to overcome these challenges?
Since the pandemic, like everybody else, we too are facing few challenges. From overnight changing flying rules and regulations in different parts of the world and doing just limited flights to having a limited workforce on the ground to run aircrafts. The increase in ATF is also adding to the operational cost. That said, our demand also exceeds the supply, for which, we have decided to overcome this by investing in the GIFT City project and managing an adequate supply. Furthermore, the challenges will be overcome as we move to normalcy. More markets will slowly reopen to Indian tourists and flying in full capacity will no more be a challenge.
Where do you see JetSetGo in the next 5 years?
Our aim is to lead the private aviation revolution and cement India’s spot in the big leagues. By 2026, India is expected to have the third-largest aviation industry in the world and our goal is to further stimulate the surge in India’s private aviation sector. We are also aiming at enabling urban air mobility in the crowded metropolitans of India and eVTOLs will help us reach our goal. eVTOLs will enable air taxis with intra-city connectivity a frequent mode of transportation in India.
We have recently launched a ‘Sky Shuttle’ service between smaller airports, ensuring zero waiting periods and the shortest flying times achievable. Additionally, we plan on expanding operations in India and other markets, including the Middle East. We also plan on buying pre-owned aircraft in the US and Middle- East through our leasing subsidiary, which allows us the flexibility to tap customers both in India and overseas. We will continue to focus on the upper end of the market, with larger play in either mid-size or the larger long-range private jets.
You have been a successful entrepreneur. Is there any plan to foray into the commercial aviation business? What is your success mantra?
The obvious development for JetSetGo should have been to launch into the commercial aviation sector but then it is not a viable industry in India. Airlines in India are selling at a much lower per-mile cost. For example, in the US, airlines sell at one dollar per nautical mile. Here, it is 37 cents per nautical mile. As compared to the US and Europe, the cost of operations is much higher in India. The airline industry has never been profitable here. A full-cost airline’s fares are almost on par with those of a low-cost airline.
I believe that brilliant businesses are not built on money, but on great people and great ideas, so focus on cracking that one extraordinary idea that will take you places. Your customers are god so deliver what you promise. There are no shortcuts to success and going lean will never go out of fashion irrespective of whether it’s your money or your investors. Communicate clearly and be transparent whether it’s with your team, customers or suppliers, as transparency is deeply valued by everyone in the long run.