Charter industry is witnessing a new dawn after COVID struck the world. Right from panic travel, to medical transfers, to corporate travel coming back and now inbound queries increasing, the industry is catering to it all. Santosh Sharma shares details and stresses on why technology is the best way forward.
Santosh Sharma, Co-founder & CEO – Foresee Aviation and Founder, BookMyJet, shared that as far as travel trade is concerned, they have a lot of queries coming in for inbound movements, not just from big travel agencies, but also from medium and small travel agencies. “There are confirmations coming for March to May 2023 as well. Thus, we are reconnecting with all the travel partners. We are talking to them, having informal and formal meetings, and trying to tell them what is happening, what are the new aircraft and updating them as a lot has changed in civil aviation in the last two years,” he added.
He also informed that as far as BookMyJet is concerned, they have completed one year successfully. “We are in the second year and now integrating more features on our app. We have our tech team in place and a beautiful office. Thus, we are integrating new things in the app. In times to come, we will have a lot of international aircraft on the app too,” he said.
Sailing through COVID
Sharma said that the pandemic proved to be a boon to the aviation business. “On 25 May 2020, when the airports were opened for charters, there were many queries coming to office. Many people and corporate houses were travelling and majority of our client were first timers. Even today about 32 per cent of them have remained and are still chartering. Around 60-68 per cent people have gone back to commercial. Out of the 32 per cent people who stuck around, there are many who are deliberating on buying their own private jet. We are already working on four deals right now. I have never seen something like this happening. Overall, while we lost a lot of things during COVID, as far as business is concerned, it came as a boom for our industry. We survived very strongly,” he informed.
Also, he informed, during COVID, most of the movement was for leisure, panic travel or medical travel. “However, post-COVID, the leisure movement has slightly gone down compared to business. So post-pandemic, all the travelling that has happened, 60 per cent is business and 30 per cent is more for leisure—people who have gone to Maldives, Goa, Dubai, Bahrain and Europe. 10 per cent of people are ad hoc travellers. Also, many inbound tourists are coming to India now. They have started making bookings, which is good news for the travel fraternity. Also, there are medical flights happening around the year,” added Sharma.
Sharma said that when the international borders were closed, people started exploring India. “They wanted to take the family along, apart from business travel. There were people who never chartered in the last 15 years, but during COVID they chartered a lot. People are travelling and do not shy away from taking bigger planes as well,” he said.
For inbound, he revealed that they recognised the problem that FTOs wanted faster time to get details for their queries. “Hence, we trained over 68 travel agencies, gave them FAQs, and other details for charters to handle some basic questions, so that they could counter those questions. This increased our business. We were also continuously in touch with them and even suggested them regarding itineraries. Instead of a vendor, we work as a partner. Today, not just the Golden Triangle, people want to go to some smaller places. We have received many off-beat queries. Most importantly, the government has made many airports operational, which allows us to operate aircraft to all the smalls airports,” he said.
BookMyJet right in time
Saying that the world is moving towards technology, Sharma claimed, “Our industry still does not have working technology. Around 2018, we started working on this, especially the problems that our clients and operators are facing. The biggest problem with the operators is the under-utilisation of their fleet. Secondly, if the clients who are sitting in Tier II and Tier III cities, want to fly charter and there is no base. Thus, BookMyJet was created. Through this technology platform, you can see the helicopter and aircraft availability across India, on a real-time basis,” he explained.
Expansion on cards
BookMyJet and Foresee Aviation do not own any aircraft. “We do not intend to. However, we are signing a contract with an associate company, most likely in Delhi or Bengaluru to induct aircraft and run it on a lease basis. We do not have any aircraft, but have bought hours from many operators in India,” he said.