The Invision Air Phenom 100
With the ever-growing luxury segment, entrepreneurs, business executives and other discerning flyers now have access to the convenience and comforts of well-equipped private jets that boast of the latest technology and safety. Not bound by time and commercial flight schedules, private aviation is one of the most exclusive service industries, comprising an increasing number of individuals now willing to shell out any sum to avail these services. Speaking about the market, Atul Khekade, CEO, Airnetz Aviation Pvt. Ltd. says, “The number of private jets and helicopters are increasing by almost 35 per cent every year. Today, there are about 500 privately-owned helicopters and jets in India.” So what is it that makes this service click? From flexibility of timings to non-stop flights to an array of services, there is a lot that private jets can offer. Here are some of the points that make private jets an interesting mélange of luxury and convenience:
Save yourself from standing in long serpentine check-in queues or at baggage claim, as private jets act as a huge time saver for the traveller, by even diminishing the need to reach the airport two hours prior to take-off time.
“The ability to have a private conversation, get some undisturbed rest, work on a laptop without people viewing the screen, are clearly some of the top benefits,” says Vinit Phatak, Managing Director, Invision Air.
With itinerary and flight plans only in the hands of a few, it is difficult for the public or insecure parties to access a traveller’s plans. Also, the security threats prevalent in commercial airlines with a large number of people do not apply to private jets.
Comfort and Luxury
With adequate space for beds and showers, the level of comfort and luxury is unparalleled. Since this is an exclusive service, the cabin is equipped with furniture, DVD players and exquisite interiors. The drinks and food menu can be designed to suit your taste buds, thus, making your journey an enjoyable and personal experience. Phatak says, “On board Invision Air’s current jets, we offer customised meals and a variety of beverages. There is a fully-functional lavatory too and other services that include airport transfers and vehicles at destinations or any other special requests that the clients may have.”
The Interiors of the Aircraft
Private jets can travel to many more airports than commercial aircrafts, so a traveller is more likely to arrive closer to his/her final destination than via commercial airlines. Khekade says, “The biggest benefit is anytime connectivity. Many airports of the world are not connected by frequent flights. Moreover, one always has to depend on a specific time to board the flight. Many industries and businesses are located in specially-zoned areas and towns. These areas can only be reached quickly by on-demand services of private jets. Helicopters provide an added benefit of being able to land anywhere (even on an open ground). So for someone always on-the-go, a private jet or a helicopter really serves the purpose.” It even gives you the freedom to visit multiple cities in one day. Phatak says, “Earlier this year, our aircraft travelled to six Indian cities in one day! This is only possible using private jets.”
The ultimate luxury is to be able to change your travel plans and destinations at any time. Of course there is a price to it, but private jets allow for flexibility like no other means of long distance travel. “A private jet is like a flying car except it needs at least three to four hours’ notice to get flight plans, crew and pilots ready for the flight to take off. In some cases, such as landing at remote airports, it can take up to three days to get necessary approvals to fly to those destinations,” informs Khekade. Phatak adds, “The flexibility in timings is primarily available for the departure time from a location where the customer wants to begin his/her travel itinerary. They don’t have to be dependent on commercial fixed schedules, so they can choose a departure time that is more suited to their personal requirement. At times, if a client’s meeting is running late, they can generally inform the flight coordinator, who can change the timings as per the client’s convenience, subject to of course certain regulatory restrictions.” A mid-size jet like a Hawker can do most destinations within India nonstop and can travel to London in one stop and New York in three stops. A large-size jet like Gulfstream 550 can make it to New York in one stop and most European destinations non-stop, while small-size jets like Phenom 100 are only suitable for non-stop flying of up to three hours.
One of the major advantages of travelling via a private jet is avoiding airport hassles completely. Generally, there is a separate entrance or terminal for private aviation, which eliminates waiting time at the airport. “Typically, a client arrives about 15 minutes prior to the flight, is greeted by staff at the airport terminal, and is escorted to a special security screening area and then to the aircraft in a car. Upon arrival, the client is received at the aircraft by a car, which transports him and his luggage directly to the airport terminal exit. So there is no time wasted dealing with check-in and security check queues, and so on,” informs Phatak.
Time to Board
There is a wide variety of jets available, which vary depending on passenger capacity. The most common jets in India are the six to eight passenger jets with varying range capabilities, and manufactured by primarily six companies. In India, most of the domestic flights are operated through Cessna Citation II or Cessna Citation XL. Hawker and Gulfstream 200 are also favourite domestic aircrafts. International flights use bigger jets such as Falcon 2000 or Falcon 700 and Gulfstream 550. Refer to ‘Options Galore’ for a list of some of the common flights based on their capacity and costing. Though a few infrastructural changes are required to boost this niche industry further, with India emerging as a powerful economy, private jets are set to take the aviation industry by storm.
On The Flipside
Gautam Chiniwala, owner of MMP India and Vinit Phatak, Chairman and co-founder of Invision Air
After a chat with Vinit Phatak, Chairman and co-founder of Invision Air—a business house active in aviation safety and chartering jets—and also some interesting email exchanges with Gautam Chiniwala, owner of MMP India—a marine product and services specialist company—what we are given to understand is that yachts may rate high on luxury and recreation, but private jets provide scope for both leisure and business activities in equilibrium.
“Aircrafts would be of three basic types—a piston or single engine 4-passenger aircraft, a turbo prop aircraft (aircraft with propellers), and lastly, the business jet. Focusing on jets, they can be categorized into light jets, mid-sized jets, super mid-sized jets, large cabin jets, and heavy jets. The price inevitably increases as you work your way up in the categories,” says Phatak.
Gautam Chiniwala explains that luxury yachts are completely the clients’ choice, “You can go from a 27-ft cabin cruiser to much larger yachts, mega yachts and super yachts.”
Charter or Own?
“Fundamentally it’s a matter of how much you use an aircraft, the flying experience, services and comfort levels are the same, the difference however is in the matter of availability,” says Phatak. Elaborating further, he explains that if you fly more than 350-400 hours a year, owning an aircraft makes more sense because a chartered plane is not going to wait on you. However you also have to consider the cost factor, owning a jet can set you back by Rs 20-25 crore, so unless you really need it, you could opt for chartering.
Chiniwala has his own take on the matter, “To understand the pleasure of owning a yacht, charter one first. It’ll help you realize whether the whole experience is worth enough to make it a part of your lifestyle permanently.”
Inside the Phenom 100 by Embraer
Doing the math Phatak states that a first time investor could go for a light jet (the entry level jet) which would typically cost around Rs 20-25 crore. While the average range is between Rs 20-400 crore, exclusive heavy jets like Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Airbus A380 can cost as high as Rs 2,000 crore.
“As for yachts, the in-house price range of FIPA yachts is approximately 13 crore and upwards depending on customization, but you can buy for lesser I suppose, although the yacht and its amenities would be pretty basic” says Chiniwala.
Phatak explains that purchasing a jet is about identifying your city pairs—Mumbai-London / Delhi-London-Dubai… and so on). City pairs help determine whether an aircraft of a particular size can do that kind of distance and whether it would warrant stopovers. “This is what we call range. Couple this with number of passengers and you should be sorted on your choice of aircraft.”
Selecting a luxury yacht has more predictable steps. Chiniwala asks you to budget for purchase and yearly costs, check the market for new offers and models, and figure out whether you want a day yacht or whether you want to build a life on it.
Maiora by FIPA
“We are looking at about Rs 1-2 crore for the maintenance of light jets, however the bigger the machine the higher the cost, but even then you could incur an expense of Rs 5-6 crore per annum tops. This should cover everything from maintenance to fuel, to a space in the hangar,” says Phatak.
The boating culture in India is still developing and so, fuel, docking and maintenance is all taken care of by the service company handled by the client. “We calculate approximately 6-8 % of the value of the yacht as yearly costs to maintain and move it,” says Chiniwala.
Top of the Line
Interestingly, both men compare their top picks to luxury cars. From Bombardier Global Express and Cessna to Embraer and Dassault, the jet market has ample on offer, but touted to be the Rolls Royce of private jets is Phatak’s personal favourite—the Gulf Stream 650.
Chiniwala has his eyes set on yachts by FIPA, his own group. He compares FIPA’s yachts to the Bentley of the yachting industry, and would be happy with any pick from Maiora, AB Yachts and CBI Navi.