• Saturday, May 28, 2022
India corona update 
Total Fatalities 506,520
Total Cases 42,478,060
Today's Fatalities 1,217
Today's Cases 67,084
India corona update 
Total Fatalities 506,520
Total Cases 42,478,060
Today's Fatalities 1,217
Today's Cases 67,084

Business

Indian poll panel’s rally ban hits charter flight business

A scene from an election rally in India. (Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE Election Commission of India’s ban on physical rallies in five poll-bound states in the country since January 8 due to the ongoing third wave of coronavirus pandemic has hit the charter flight operators.

While those into the business see a peak in their operations during elections as political parties hire charter flights, the scenario is grim this time. According to the operators, a meagre 10-15 per cent of the 350-400 flight hours per month are related to election at this stage, the Press Trust of India reported.

“Election travel has not really picked up. It had started to pick up initially, around mid-December, but then the EC announced the ban on rallies so that completely stopped most of the (election-related) travel,” Rajan Mehra, chief executive officer (CEO) of Club One Air told PTI.

Election travel is very limited, added Mehra, who is also a former India head of Qatar Airways.

Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and founder, JetSetGo Aviation, told PTI that as there is a ban on rallies due to Covid, the company has seen only 70 per cent of inquiries for poll-related travel this year as compared to last year.

However, no inquiry has been actually converted into actual flights as of yet and their conversion is in process, she said.

“Since ban on physical rallies has been extended, we don’t see many flights happening for elections this time for rallies,” Tekriwal added.

JetSetGo Aviation and Club One Air have a fleet of 18 and 10 aircraft, respectively, to operate charter flights.

The national poll panel on January 8 announced the dates for elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur and during then, it had announced a ban on physical rallies, roadshows and bike rallies and similar campaign events till January 15.

On January 15, the commission extended the ban until January 22. On Saturday, it was extended to January 31.

The elections are set to kick off on February 10 and the results will be announced on March 10. While Uttar Pradesh will witness a seven-phase election, Manipur will see a  two-phase election while the rest will have a single-phase one.

According to Mehra, while election-related travel is not picking up for charter companies, the overall scenario for business aviation (charter flight operations) has been very good.

Right after the first Covid wave, safety became an issue of paramount importance beyond luxury or anything else, he said.

“There has been a regularity of travel in private jets. So, before COVID-19, if we would on an average see around 150-200 flying hours per month, that has gone up to 350-400 flight hours per month,” Mehra said.

“It might pick up once the EC announces (removing the ban on) rallies but right now it is 10-15 per cent for most operators,” he said.

Mehra said that in the election season last year, approximately 30-40 per cent of the travel was for election rallies.

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