Wealthy Indians Flee by Private Jet as Virus Infections Spiral
(Bloomberg) — India’s mounting crisis surrounding a surge in coronavirus infections is prompting wealthy families to flee the country by private jet.
With reports of hospital bed and drug shortages sweeping social media, Indian tycoons and others who are not so well off but fearful for their health are booking flights to bolt holes in Europe, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.
“It’s not only the ultra-rich,” said Rajan Mehra, chief executive officer at New Delhi-based private jet firm Club One Air. “Whoever can afford to take a private jet are taking private jets.”
India reported 352,991 new infections Monday, the highest daily tally worldwide since the pandemic began. With the country’s health infrastructure creaking under the strain, Bollywood movie superstars were spotted escaping to destinations including the Maldives, while at least three Australian cricketers quit the Indian Premier League, the sport’s leading club tournament.
Some of the impetus for the wealthy to fly out of India has come from overseas nations taking measures to restrict travel from India as the new wave of Covid-19 cases has taken hold.
Canada, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. are among more than a dozen countries that have imposed curbs, with others poised to announce measures. The Maldives will restrict Indians from visiting all but a handful of resort-only islands starting Tuesday, leading to a last-minute rush in departures.
“There was a huge surge to London and Dubai just before the restrictions took place, and the Maldives too before they announced the ban,” said Mehra, who was previously the head of Indian operations at Qatar Airways.
A one-way flight from New Delhi to Dubai costs as much as 1.5 million rupees ($20,000), including ground handling and other fees, though private jet operators also charge for the return leg if the plane is empty, Mehra said.
While private fares were already high and haven’t been bumped up, the cost of airline tickets has climbed, the CEO said, with one-way economy-class trips to Dubai going for the equivalent of $1,300, more than 10 times the regular price.
“That shows how desperately people are trying to get away,” he said.
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