How much does it cost to hire a chartered flight in India?

 Aircraft charter was earlier the done only by large corporate companies and rich political parties. Now with covid-19, rich families are willing to shell out several lakhs to hire an entire plane for their family travel.

MakeMytrip has introduced a charter flight booking on their website. AirAsia India has also listed their planes for charter flights. Of course there're several individual companies owning smaller planes that can be contacted for chartered flights.

Question is, how much does chartering a plane costs and what are the terms and conditions?

This post tries to provide a quick answer:

Advantages of chartering an entire plane

  • Flexibility to schedule as per our date & time, from and to wherever we want to go
  • Full privacy and no contact with other fliers
  • Less time in airport formalities
  • Can carry pets

Factors that affect charter flight rates

  • Size of the aircraft- Small 5-6 seater planes are cheaper to rent while chartering an Airbus 320 will cost several times more.
  • Base city- just like how taxi companies charge garage to garage, aircraft companies start counting time from and to home base airport. Chartering a flight from Delhi to Bengaluru and back to Delhi will be cheaper, than chartering a flight between Tiruvananthapura to Chennai, as most aircrafts are based in Mumbai & Delhi.
  • Time. There will always be some delays from your side or because of ATC/Weather etc and it will add to final price.
  • Note that GST is 18% 
How much do aircrafts cost to charter?
As per makemytrip, hiring small planes all for yourself costs about 13 lakh onwards. But note that these small planes have limited space, seating, comfort and take 2x more time to reach the destination.

A more luxurious private jets can cost about 30 lakhs for a short trip. Makemytrip hasn't listed AirAsia's A320s for charter. Even AirAsia website doesn't list the planes for charter- AirAsia will communicate the rate in person if you make an inquiry. 

This Business Standard news says A320/B737 cost about 4.5-5 lakh per hour. At this rate, for a Delhi-Bengaluru flight, we are looking at 3 hours one way+  1 hour before flight, 1 hour after flight + 3 hours to go back to home base = 8 hours = 30 to 40 lakhs.
Other way to look at high aircraft charter price is to calculate per passenger expense. If an 18 seater beechcraft is costing 14 lakhs, it is about 80k per person, if you are filling all seats. That is probably 10-15x normal commercial fare but not an exorbitant amount for rich people. Per seat cost looks even better- like if a 180 seater A320 is available for 40 lakhs, it is just 25k per person. If you are using for both onward and return journey, then just about 12.5k per person, that is same as commercial flight. But you may not always have enough people to fill the plane, so calculate your per person cost.

Do I get security exemption if I hire a chartered flight?
No. You will still have to undergo security checks and all the restrictions applicable on cabin bag and check-in bag during commercial flight still applies for chartered flight. Of course you can negotiate a better baggage policy and some airports will have dedicated access/processing area to chartered flights- like you may be able to go till aircraft in your car. It may be convenient/safer this way, but cross check with operator, as not all Indian airports offer special treatment to chartered flight passengers.

Can we go to cockpit during chartered flight?
No. Passengers are not allowed inside cockpit as per rules- commercial or charter. But if your captain agrees to let you peep in off the record there isn't much anyone can do about it.

Can we fly international?
Yes, but it will involve lot more paperwork and regulatory requirements. You'll have to hire larger planes for longer duration hence cost will be high as well. Check with operator.

Are chartered flights safe?
There is no reason to believe they are unsafe. But then, smaller planes and their operators get less media attention and slightly less scrutiny from regulators. 

How to save on aircraft charters?
1. Find a flight returning empty- just like how airport taxi drivers are happy to pick up a ride for cheap money one-way (after dropping off a paid customer), if a charter company is flying a plane back to its base empty, then you can negotiate a bargain deal. For this you will need right contacts, high flexibility (to travel whenever an empty charter flight is available)
2. Negotiate directly with nearby operator: Team up with anyone else looking for similar service and bargain directly with aircraft operator. On weeks having low demand, you may get good rates. If your trip is from Coimbatore to Rajamundry, an operator based in Bengaluru/Hyderabad/Chennai can be lot cheaper, than having to get the plane from Delhi/Mumbai.
3. Plan to use round trip if possible. Cost is usually same either one way or return, because aircraft has to return to its base. Hire from a nearby operator to reduce empty flying or plan such that you can fly back too on same aircraft same day/next day, instead of hiring another charter few days later.

What are your thoughts? Fancy hiring an entire plane for yourself?

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