Amid concerns over high air fares pushing new fliers back to train travel, another set of statistics show that even the number of luxury fliers in the city has been dwindling steadily.
According to data from the Mumbai airport operator, there has been a steady fall in the number of people shuttling in and out of the city on private jets. From 13,990 flight movements (take-off and landings) in 2010-11, traffic dropped to 12,998 movements in the subsequent period of 12 months. It further dropped to 12,394 movements until March this year. “The drop in traffic is more than 11% in a span of two years. The trend indicates concerns particularly because luxury air travel is an emerging sector in India,” said a senior official with an aviation think-tank requesting anonymity.
Business jet owners blame the recent price hike in parking charges, cumbersome laws manning general aviation and, to a lesser extent, the dull economic sentiment across the globe for the decline. “The Mumbai airport charges severe penalties to foreign business jets parked for more than 72 hours and domestic jets using the facility for more than two days. How can business-houses plan trips for such a short period?” said Rohit Kapur, president of the Business Aircraft Owners' Association. He added that it is revenue loss for the country citing many studies worldwide that showed 600 hours of flying in a year increases a CEO's man hours by a month.
The dip in business has automatically slowed the expansion plans of private jet operators. For instance, Invasion Air, a city-based company operating a fleet of executive jets recently revised its order for 20 planes to 12. “We are not against the hike in the parking charges. The crux of the problem is a massive shortage of parking space which needs to be addressed,” said Vinit Pathak, chairman Invasion Air.