NEW DELHI: The Electoral Commission’s ban on physical gatherings in five poll-related states since January 8 due to the current wave of Covid-19 has hit business for charter flight operators.
At this point, only 10-15% of the 350-400 flight hours per month are election-related travel, the operators said.
“Election travel hasn’t really picked up. It had started to resume around mid-December, but then the EC announced a ban on gatherings, which brought most (election-related) travel to a complete halt,” said Rajan Mehra, CEO. , Club One Air told PTI.
Election travel is very limited, added Mehra, former Indian director of Qatar Airways.
Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and founder of JetSetGo Aviation, told PTI that due to the ban on gatherings due to Covid-19, the company has only seen 70% of election-related travel requests this year per year. compared to last year.
However, no surveys have yet been converted into actual flights and their conversion is ongoing, she added.
“Since the ban on physical gatherings has been extended, we don’t see a lot of theft happening for the elections this time for gatherings,” Tekriwal noted.
JetSetGo Aviation and Club One Air have a fleet of 18 and 10 aircraft, respectively, to operate charter flights.
Announcing election dates in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur on January 8, the poll panel had announced a ban on physical rallies, roadshows and bike rallies and events of similar campaign until 15 January.
On January 15, the commission extended the ban until January 22. On Saturday, it was extended until January 31.
Although election-related travel is not resuming for charter airlines, the overall scenario for business aviation (charter flight operations) has been very good, Mehra said.
After the first wave of Covid-19, security became an issue of paramount importance beyond luxury or anything else, he said.
“There has been a regularity in private jet travel. So before COVID-19, if we were seeing an average of around 150-200 flight hours per month, that has increased to 350-400 flight hours per month,” he stated.
“It could pick up once the EC announces (the lifting of the ban) on gatherings, but right now it’s 10-15% for most operators,” he said.
Last year, during election season, about 30 to 40 percent of travel was for campaign rallies, he said.
Tekriwal said JetSetGo Aviation was hitting its “big numbers” through pre-pandemic business travel.
However, leisure travel accounts for the bulk of business right now.
“We have received a positive response from our customers to our ‘Fly Safe’ commitment to maintaining Covid-19 protocol standards and seeing a surge in leisure travel bookings which is also continuing,” said she declared.
“Our business travel inquiries have started to show positive exchanges which are slowly returning to normal,” she noted.