Chartered planes rake in moolah this election season

Tags: News
Around 130 air charter service operators across the country are having a "boom time" making "handsome profit" due to extensive use of helicopters and business jets by parties like BJP and Congress for electioneering, dubbed as most expensive in India's history.

The sector's turn-around is significant as it was reporting negative growth of two per cent in the past two years. The business has increased by over 35-40 per cent in the last two months, mainly due to hiring of the flying machines by the politicos for the campaigning.

Industry sources said the parties and individual politicos are roughly spending Rs 350-400 crore to criss-cross the country in chartered planes during campaign for the world's biggest democratic exercise spread over two months.

So far BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has clocked maximum number of flying hours to campaign for the party followed by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, experts in the industry said.

An industry insider said BJP was the top spender so far in using choppers and business jets.

A number of operators said there has been scramble for aircraft in this election season as availability of the business jets and choppers have outpaced the demand, triggering a huge surge in rates.

Secretary of Business Aircraft Operator's Association R K Bali said the sector was witnessing negative growth of two per cent in the last two years but business has seen impressive growth as leading parties hit an aggressive campaign trail.

"This is the only boom time in the air charter services industry. Otherwise they are struggling in India as the aircraft are mostly under utilised," said Bali.

According to DGCA figures, around 130 non-scheduled aircraft operators are in the business currently out of which around 40 are big operators having four to five private jets which ferry people abroad also. They are operating around 520 aircraft and choppers.

Captain G R Gopinath, the pioneer of low-cost airline in India and promoter of Deccan Charters, said election was a good time for the air charter industry as they were making "hay" when the "sun was shining".

"It is more visible because of the glamour, sound and furry that surround a chopper or a business jet... Even after hopping in and out of choppers and jets, national leaders like Modi and Rahul may not be able to cover more than 200 constituencies," he told PTI.

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