Elections usually mean hectic activity for helicopter operators. But it translates into good business only if those who lease the choppers actually pay up.
As the state polls draw near, many private charter companies have decided to ask political parties to make full advance payments when signing deals, instead of paying in installments as is their practice with corporate clients.
Politicians hire helicopters during their campaigns. On an average, they buy about 25 flying hours during state polls, operators said. One hour of flying in a five-seat chopper costs Rs 45,000.
“Until the Lok Sabha polls, political parties would pay 25 per cent of the full price in advance, and dilly-dally with the balance,” said Captain Akram Baig, managing director of Airborne Aviation, a Mumbai-based private charter company. “From now on, we will offer them services only on full advance payment.”
Operators say they have a tough time getting politicians to cough up their dues. “Corporate clients are extremely professional about payments,” said Ameya Gore, spokesperson for Airnetz Aviation, another Mumbai-based private charter company. “We cannot trust politicians.”
Another problem with campaigns is the constantly changing schedules.
“Often, politicians fail to appreciate the constraints of flying. For instance, if a politician decides to change his or her itinerary mid-air, the chopper cannot go directly to the new destination if it’s low on fuel. But the politician may refuse to pay for the detour made to refuel,” said Arun Lohiya, chief executive officer of Bafna Air, another private charter firm.
To avoid trouble, some operators have decided to not deal directly with politicians. “We deal with agents who either put their own money or guarantee recovery,” said Lohiya.