Launched with fanfare on September 1, the eight-seater chartered flight from Ludhiana to Delhi has hit turbulence.
Two flights of Jetsmart were to shuttle between Ludhiana and Delhi five days a week. But 25 days on, only one flight departs from Sahnewal airport at 9am and arrives from Delhi at 5.45pm.
On Day 1, all eight seats of the Beechcraft B200 Superking Air were occupied and the return 75-minute flight had five passengers. The next day, the return flight from Delhi to Ludhiana did not operate though the 9am flight was full to capacity from Ludhiana.
The aircraft has seven executive class seats and an economy class seat.
On September 5, the aircraft ferried a lone passenger to Delhi and returned with two passengers. One passenger took the flight from Ludhiana the next day too, while two passengers were on board from Delhi on September 7.
Data with airport authorities shows one passenger boarded the aircraft on September 8 and the aircraft returned vacant from Delhi that day. The number of passengers picked up on September 12. Four passengers took the flight to Delhi and three returned in the evening.
Bringing some cheer, the aircraft was full to capacity on September 14 when seven passengers boarded the flight from Ludhiana and eight returned.
However, the number of passengers again declined on September 16 when three boarded the flight, while the evening flight from the national capital did not operate.
RATE CUT TO Rs 7,000
When bookings opened on August 22, a seat in the air taxi cost Rs 10,000 for economy class and Rs 13,000 for executive class. To attract customers, the ticket price was cut to Rs 7,000 irrespective of the class.
The chartered flight, which does not serve snacks or beverages on board, was launched to cater to a the non-resident Indian (NRI) population. Jetsmart officials said that NRIs from Punjab have no option but to land in Delhi and travel to Punjab by road.
But with the airline, they can land in Ludhiana and head home in a luxury vehicle.
ECONOMICS AND CONVENIENCE
A ticket costs on the chartered flight from Ludhiana to Delhi costs Rs 7,000. Less than two hours away in Chandigarh, there are eight flights to Delhi with budget airlines charging Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000.
There is little room for flexibility with only one flight operating at 9am.
SK Rai, director, Hero Group, says there is more flexibility in timings when one catches a flight from Chandigarh. Hence, it is more convenient and economical to head to Delhi from Chandigarh by air than from Ludhiana.
POSITIVE RESPONSE, CLAIMS AIRLINE
Vishal Tandon, the assistant general manager (North) of Jetsmart, said, “We are getting a positive response that will only grow with time. There has been a variation in the number of passengers daily.”
“There are days when the aircraft is full and others when we have flown with one passenger. We are happy with the response,” he said.