JetSetGo guarantees jet availability to customers
When Kanika Tekriwal originally set up JetSetGo as a way of utilising spare capacity in the Indian business aviation market, she quickly came across a problem.
Getting clients was the easy part, there were plenty customers happy to fly on private jets at reduced prices. But ensuring that they could fly on the flights they wanted without the aircraft owner changing his plans and needing to utilise the aircraft was becoming problematic.
Although owners were happy to release their aircraft originally for the flight, plans often changed and the owners required the aircraft after all. This meant that JetSetGo was not able to offer the service it wanted and found itself having to cancel flights for its clients.
Taking customers and then having to cancel their flights later was not what Tekriwal envisaged herself doing when she founded the company in 2014.
Her original idea was to create a marketplace where owners could list when their aircraft would not be used so that others could buy flights on the aircraft.
“Booking the aircraft was only 10% of the problem”, says Tekriwal. “The real problems were cancellations, catering going wrong, airport inefficiencies, pilot not turning up or the aircraft being delayed. And a large number of times owners would decide to use the aircraft themselves and cancel the flight.”
To solve this problem, Tekriwal first thought about buying her own fleet of aircraft. This was quickly dismissed, though, as the company wouldn’t be able to operate flights at the same prices as other operators that would be using their excess capacity.
The solution was to become an operator, but without its own aircraft fleet.
Tekriwal likens the company more to that of a charter company than that of an aircraft manager, although it does both. What the company does is to take the aircraft whilst it is not being used and offer it to other people.
Although the owner still needs to release the aircraft for additional flights, JetSetGo will ensure that if it has sold an additional flight on the aircraft when the owner needs to use it, the flight will still go ahead as the company will book the owner a charter flight.
“For all our aircraft owners we have a simple criterion that they have to agree to.” Says Tekriwal. “In case their aircraft is committed on charter to somebody else, then you must be happy to take another aircraft from us, which will be the same size or bigger. And they are more than happy doing that.”
That way says Tekriwal everybody still gets to fly, although the owner may not get to fly on his own aircraft.
Using this approach, the company says that it has been able to save aircraft owners millions of dollars a year.
To demonstrate this Tekriwal gives the example of an aircraft owner whowas losing $2 – $3 million a year on the aircraft. After being part of JetSetGo for six months, he started being profitable again, and still got to use the plane as much as he wanted.
When aircraft owners join JetSetGo, the company will guarantee them several things, including occupied hours and capped maintenance costs. Tekriwal says that in the beginning owners were cautious about signing up, but as word of mouth spread, more and more customers are signing up. They do this, she says, largely because they don’t want the headache of looking after the aircraft themselves.
Currently, JetSetGo has a fleet of 24 aircraft, from a Citation CJ2 right the way up to big Falcons. This number is rapidly expanding, and the firm is targeting 45 aircraft by the end of its next fiscal year.
To grow quickly, Tekriwal believes that the mindset of the Indian flying public needs to change. The overwhelming majority of JetSetGo’s users only utilise an aircraft for business reasons, preferring to avoid using it for leisure as they are worried about how they will be perceived, not only by the tax man, but also the general public.
In 2017 the company flew 4,600 hours, but Tekriwal says that, according to the company’s analysis of those flights, only 290 hours were on leisure flights. In Europe and the US the split between business and leisure usage of private jets is around 60 / 40 I favour on business. In India it is more like 95 / 5 for business.
“We don’t have a bunch of 29-year olds hopping on a plane to go party the night away and come back, even though they can afford it. We still have people going to five or six meetings and then coming back.” Says Tekriwal, “A lot of my aircraft-owning customers whose aircraft I manage, their children never use these planes for leisure. In fact, in some cases I have never even had their children on board or had their wives on board. It is just used as a pure business tool.”
The perception that a private jet is a luxury item is common across the world, not just an issue facing India. But elsewhere in the world governments have some understanding, and in some cases actively promote the use of private jets.
“The situation we are in today is the government and everybody else around it perceives a private jet as a luxury.” Says Tekriwal, “It’s very difficult for people to understand that it is not a luxury, but more a tool for efficiency.”
That’s not to say that perceptions aren’t changing. Often in meetings with clients, Tekriwal will find herself explaining that what she is really selling is time. That investment in their time is the best thing that they could buy, it is time that they could be spending with their family or more time in the office.
“I am going to buy you back so many hours of your life with your family or at your office by using a private jet. And that’s when the customer thinks ‘Wow, this makes a lot of sense’”.