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Notebandi: Netas' flying' campaigns fail to take off

December 07, 2016 06:20 AM

COURSTEY Dec 07 2016 : The Times of India (Chandigarh)
Notebandi: Netas' flying' campaigns fail to take off
Saurabh Sinha
New Delhi


In the upcoming poll season, demonetisation could hit the plans of politicians who count on charter aircraft to keep up with the frenetic pace of campaigns.
Leading aircraft and helicopter charter operators say the impact will be most visible in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, where the main political parties had made bookings much in advance but now find themselves unable to pay the fee.

“Keeping a chopper, the most desired flying machine during polls because of its ability to land almost anywhere, for 40 days costs about Rs 2 crore. In a big state like UP, the campaign season sees 20 to 25 choppers being hired by the main parties,“ said a leading operator. “Bookings were made for a similar number this time as well, but now the parties are unable to pay . There is going to be a significant drop in the number of choppers and planes actually hired, which will now be limited to the top campaigners,“ the operator added.

The problem: Some political parties may still have the old, banned notes, which no one wants to touch any more.

“We are asked to accept payments in old notes, but we have to say no... So... we and are asking parties to take as many choppers as they can pay for by cheque or in new notes,“ said a charter helicopter operator.

Since the November 8 demonetisation declaration, the charter industry has already seen a 7% to 8% drop in bookings. “Some charges, like parking payment at airports, have to be paid in cash.Since operators are low on cash, they have to decline some bookings these days. Also, the people who used to hire are also under pressure,“ said Jayant Nadkarni, president of Business Aircraft Operators' Association.

He said the crunch would continue unless the cash situation improves. “We are approaching the peak season...that may be affected this year,“ he added.

Ironically , some business jet operators are under the scanner for allegedly flying out large amounts of demonetised notes from small airfields, where passenger bags are not checked. “The regulator recently issued a directive in this regard and pilots are checking planes to see what is being taken on board,“ Nadkarni said.

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