India's business aviation market is poised to explode as several corporations look to augment their fleets, and potential new operators aim to set up charter and fractional programmes.

Today, the market is limited to roughly 20 business jets that are owned and operated by India's major conglomerates and are occasionally made available for outside charter. These aircraft have provided the only charter option because companies interested in setting up dedicated charter operations have been reluctant to launch. But India's fast-growing economy and the expected increase in VIPs looking to circumvent India's poor transportation infrastructure are changing the dynamics of the market.

Delhi-based AR Airways says it is ready to take the plunge by launching a fractional programme with as many as eight aircraft. The company's new Club One subsidiary has already acquired a used Cessna Citation S/II and used Citation Excel that will be available for charters starting this month and a fractional programme will follow in the second quarter.

"We think the timing is ripe," says Club One managing director Manav Singh. "The economy is growing. This is a perfect opportunity for multinationals, Indian corporations and wealthy individuals to own an aircraft at the fraction of the cost."

Bangalore-based Deccan Aviation, which now operates two Pilatus PC-12s and eight helicopters, also plans to establish a business jet charter operation later this year with two Cessna Citations, Bombardier Learjet 45s or Learjet 60s. Deccan, which looked at establishing a fractional programme a few years ago but decided there was not sufficient demand, says it will initially only offer charters and will expand into fractionals if the market warrants. "We want to grow the market slowly," says managing director G R Gopinath.

Air Works, which now maintains 11 Indian-based business jets from its hangar in Mumbai and is a sales agent for Gulfstream, says it is also considering launching a charter operation with a small to mid-size long-range Gulfstream.

Cessna believes the market is ready and has labelled India the largest growth market in Asia alongside China. "There really seems to be some latent demand," says Citation regional sales director Asia-Pacific, Robert Hollander.

Club One could become the first business jet fractional programme in India, but it is not the first company to try. Aviators tried unsuccessfully to set up a programme two years ago. Manufacturers warn that it is hard to transplant the fractional ownerwship model to Asian countries such as India, because potential operators must acquire several aircraft from the start – and lining up enough fractional commitments to merit this investment is difficult. "Fractional I think is too premature for our country," says Air Works director Ravi Menon.

The operators and manufacturers warn that there are several other impediments to growth in India, including a lack of parking facilities at major airports, bureaucratic regulations and high taxes.

But operators believe these barriers are slowly being lifted and there will be a large enough market to sustain several start-ups. "It's a growing market. There is space for everybody," says Singh.


Source: Flight International