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Air charter market in India is poised to grow

Shailendra Seth, Director, Chapman Freeborn, talks about the current status of air charter market in India and the potential the market holds for this niche industry to witness rapid growth in the coming years

What is the current operational profile of Chapman Freeborn and what is the mid and long–term growth strategy?

We have recently moved into some larger offices at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) to accommodate our growing team. From IGIA, we offer the full range of Chapman Freeborn services which would include cargo, large passenger movements, executive aircraft and on-board courier. In addition, we are also becoming more actively involved in flight services like permits, handling, overflight, and the supply of aviation fuel on a global basis.

As business develops, both internally and internationally, Chapman Freeborn will develop with it.

We see a strong future for our Indian team and future developments may include further offices, most likely starting with Mumbai and then further investment in IT, infrastructure and, of course, staff and training.

How do you see the air charter market in India in terms of growth opportunity and market size?

There is a niche market here with India embarking on a lot of infrastructure projects and also looking to become a manufacturing base. This is only expected to grow in the future. With the rate of growth of the Indian middle class and the entrepreneurial nature of Indian business it would be difficult to argue with the industry prediction and Chapman Freeborn will certainly have a significant part to play in that growth in all aspects.

The air charter market in India is still at a nascent stage. What are the factors hindering the growth of this segment?

With scheduled airlines going through a turbulent period, it is time to turn to a more reliable source of flying air charters. There has indeed been a slowdown and the Euro zone crisis has affected not only charter operators but also scheduled airlines. India has also not been isolated from this. However, the scope of the charter market in India is poised to expand as big infrastructure projects are being undertaken by the Indian government and private companies, both domestically and internationally.

How would you compare the air charter market of India with China and other developed markets?

In spite of the rapid economic growth and technological advancements in our country, the air travel sector is still waiting for a major change. While the government is positively working towards encouraging growth in the aviation industry by bringing drastic changes in policies, current infrastructure is hardly capable to handle the growth. In developed markets, there are over 11,000 helicopters and thousands of private aircraft in commercial or private use. In India, with a population of approximately over 110 crores, we have just around 175 helicopters and approximately 100 aircraft being commercially or privately used. The use of aircraft charter services through helicopters has a distinct advantage over scheduled operators. It provides the fastest available mode of transport on short notice, the quickest accessibility to remote areas, no waiting time at check-in counters and at airports for connecting flights and hence is a boon to the time-conscious customer.

You recently partnered with Drukair. How useful will this venture be for you as well as Drukair and tourism industry of Bhutan? How different is it to MakeMyTrip’s tie-up?

Chapman Freeborn’s exclusive agreement with Drukair means that Bhutan will now be more widely accessible to international private jet travelers. Through the unique partnership with Drukair, Chapma`n Freeborn can now provide this service for private jet aircraft and obtain necessary permits to operate charters to Bhutan.

The basic difference is that we have tied up for providing private Jets for the HNWI and not bulk charters. Our aim is to promote luxury travel. Also, our partnership encompasses a wider scope than just charters and includes other areas of co-operation.

The Bhutan partnership will appeal to private jet users in markets like the US, UK and Europe, as well as the newer emerging private jet markets like Asia and Latin America. The world’s a relatively small place in terms of private aviation, so it’s rare to be able to offer a destination that’s totally unique.

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