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Frequent flier? How about buying a plane!

india Updated: Apr 28, 2008 00:31 IST
Varun Soni

You no longer need to buy tickets for the weekly business trips you make to various Indian cities. Just buy a turbo-jet or a helicopter and fly across to your destination … at your convenience.

Spurred by the growing numbers of high net-worth individuals in the country (100,000 with over $1 million investible assets and growing at 20.5 per cent per annum), aviation is the new buzzword in the luxury market today. Earlier restricted to travel agents chartering planes, today a number of companies are getting into 'selling' business airplanes.

The latest to join the race is Bird Air Services — a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Delhi-based $ 100 million travel conglomerate the Bird Group — that has signed an exclusive agreement with global aircraft dealer and broker, Regourd Aviation of France to sell business airplanes and helicopters in the country.

On offer are Eurocopters, Cessna's and business airplanes like Dassault's Falcon 7X, Gulfstream G100 and King Air B200. The price range: a mind-boggling US$ 1.5 million to US$ 25 million.

As per the agreement, Bird Air Services will market Regourd Aviation in the Indian subcontinent (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan) and provide the growing Indian general aviation market with access to a variety of business airplanes and helicopters.

The two entities are also considering the possibility of establishing a joint venture entity in India to further expand the partnership in the general aviation space. "In addition to outright purchase of aircraft, we will also offer the option of "on demand". This model will allow usage of aircraft according to requirements without going into fractional ownership nor wasting valuable aircraft life through lack of utilization," said Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group.

What this means is that if the buyer/client does not intend to use the aircraft for a certain period of time, the aircraft will be on offer to other clients thereby earning revenue for the original client.

India at present has only 250 aircraft but the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation estimates that there is a market for 500 general aviation aircraft by 2020 that may reach 1,000 presenting a business opportunity of US$ 80 billion. The projected growth rate for the industry is 18 per cent per annum over the next 10 years.

"The General Aviation Industry in India is growing at a rapid pace with rising affluence, increased investments in aviation infrastructure, record corporate profitability, increasing tourism as well as strong support from the government," said Bhatia.

Commenting on the alliance, Alan Regourd, Chief Executive Officer, Regourd Aviation said, "In partnership with Bird Air Services, we aim to properly tap the immense potential of the general aviation segment in India."