Tycoons and Bollywood stars may be some of the best-known residents fleeing India’s coast by private jets as the coronavirus crisis escalates – but they’re by no means the only ones, according to JetSetGo, a private jet charter company.
The situation in India has gotten so bad that even upper-middle-class families are pooling their resources to flee, its co-founder and CEO Kanika Tekriwal told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia.
The South Asian country, which has grappled with a devastating surge in the virus, recorded 412,262 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 28 million.
“To say that only wealthy Indians leave India on private jets would be wrong,” said Tekriwal of the Maldives on Thursday.
“What we’ve really seen in the past 10 days is anyone who can put together the resources and funds to raise money for a private jet or to raise money just to get out of the country and get off.”
It’s just people raising money to leave the country. I think they are the ones who fear Covid the most.
Co-founder and CEO of JetSetGo
Tekriwal said JetSetGo has seen bookings grow by 900% in the past few weeks – with roughly 70% to 80% coming from the upper-middle class rather than their regular, very wealthy customers. Most of them are fleeing to the Maldives, which are currently offering quarantine in a remote resort for passengers from India, or to Dubai, where entry is possible for business reasons.
“They are just people raising money to get out of the country. I think they fear Covid the most because they are not particularly rich or the most accessible to medical care,” she said.
During a weekly market in Kandivali you can see crowds shopping.
SOPA pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images
JetSetGo hasn’t increased its rates to respond to rising demand, Tekriwal said, adding, “That would be opportunistic and wrong.”
But at $ 18,000 to $ 20,000 for an eight-seat jet to the Maldives or $ 31,000 for a six-seat jet to Dubai, the trip isn’t cheap – even for India’s upper-middle class, who make more than $ 15,000 a year.
However, Tekriwal said the situation was so out of control that in some cases the price of a private jet flight could be below hospital fees.
Most of my clients have told me that: “We can spend six months’ salary or our savings on fleeing the country.”
Co-founder and CEO of JetSetGo
The hospital stay costs about $ 2,500 a night, she said. “It’s what hospital rooms are aimed at. Even if you have two family members in the hospital for 14 days, you’ll see double the price of a flight to Dubai.”
“This is what most of my clients have told me: ‘We are okay with spending six months’ salary or savings on fleeing the country instead of being in half a hospital bed not knowing how much we’re going to make or when we’re going to pay get a hospital bed at all.“”
Tekriwal added that passengers who test positive for Covid-19 will not be accepted on their regular flights. However, the company offers a separate national and international air ambulance service.
However, a private jet does not guarantee an escape from the virus.
Despite enforcing new security measures since last March – including mandatory testing, regular disinfection of aircraft, and no interaction between passengers and crew – Tekriwal said 30% of its employees have continued to test positive for the virus.
“What hurts me the most is that these teams come in, come out and work with people to get them safely from point A to point B. And when they test positive, they bring the virus home to their families. To theirs young children and their parents, which is pretty worrying, “she said.