Kedar Hiremath (42) didn’t expect a response when he posted a request to share a charter flight to Udaipur on a social networking site two months ago. Three days later, when a group of strangers wrote back, Hiremath thought it was spam.
But the Marol-based entrepreneur made the journey worth a few lakhs for one-sixth the cost. “I knew flight pools happened in California. But this was a pleasant surprise,” he said.
Hiremath is now a member of an online community keen to promote flight pools. Several social networking sites have a few such groups. Airnetz Aviation, a city-based company that offers charter trips, has launched a social networking portal offering flight pools.
The company’s market survey found that most of its clients use phones with push mail facility (such as Blackberry) and discuss their travel plans on social networking sites. “We want to tap a segment that cannot afford to hire the whole aircraft. It’s a thin yet potential segment,” said Ameya Gore, spokesperson, Airnetz.
With charter companies allowing passengers to split costs, a return trip from Pune on a fully-booked six-seater turboprop would cost Rs 12,000 a person. The cost of hiring a luxury car such as Toyota Corolla is the same.
Charter companies are experimenting with these techniques because they expect the segment to grow. “People interested in flight pool comprise 10 per cent of the business. But in a couple of years, as general aviation evolves, it likely to have a bigger demand,” said Captain Akram Baig, from Airborne Aviation, an Andheri-based private charter company.
“The segment needs to be encouraged to develop an aviation market such the one in the US,” said Anil Umath, the chief operating officer, with Pune-based Eon Aviation.