Invision Air is seeking to bring economies of scale to kick-start India’s executive charter sector. For the most part, the industry consists of small operators with no more than two or three aircraft each. But the Mumbai-based startup has placed an order with Embraer for 12 aircraft, a mix of Phenom 100 and 300 light jets.
Last year, Invision tested the market with two Phenom 100s and the results were sufficiently encouraging for it to take the next step. However, it did reduce its original order from 18 of the four-passenger Phenom 100s and two of the eight-passenger Phenom 300s to just six of each type.
“We want to address the entry-level segment paying $3,000 an hour as against the present $4,500,” Invision cofounder and managing director Vinit Pathak told AIN. “We expect this segment to gradually move up as the market increases. Also, as a startup, the initial capital cost is less.”
For Pathak, whose Invision group has been successful in both telecommunications and safety products, the Phenom was a natural choice. “It is practical luxury, not ostentatious,” he commented. “The aircraft is not a bedroom but a meeting room in the sky. There is a growth in rural areas as real estate explodes with wealth opportunities. Phenom 100s can land there.”
Looking to future plans for Invision to offer service outside India, Pathak is already eyeing the larger Legacy 500 and 600 models for fleet development. Commonality across the Embraer product range is a big factor in his business model.
In addition to standard charters, Invision will offer jet card membership (through which clients by blocks of 25 flight hours). Planned for the future is a package through which customers will purchase whole aircraft and then lease them back to Invision. Phathak maintained that fractional ownership is not a practical option in India due to its complex tax and import rules.
Standard hourly rates for the Phenom 100s are around $3,000 (plus expenses and taxes), but this will be reduced for jet card clients. Invision anticipates that hourly rates for the larger Phenom 300s will be around $5,000.
Support for the Invision fleet has been arranged through two Indian service centers, Air Works and Indamar. The work is being organized through task-based agreements, with the operator having the option to go to either provider depending on which is the most convenient option at any given time.
For now Invision has three Phenom 100s, based at Delhi, Mumbai and Nashik. Pathak sees a lot of charter growth coming from second- and third-tier cities that do not have good airline service. Nashik, which he described as India’s answer to California’s Napa Valley wine region, is both a business and tourism center and yet, like many smaller cities, can be reached only via inconvenient airline connections through distant hub airports.
At the same time, the new operator also sees potential demand from larger cities where airlines are cutting business-class service in favor of low-fare services. Pathak told AIN that he is talking to airlines about the possibility of providing onward domestic service for their first-class passengers arriving on international flights.
By the end of 2012, Invision will select three more bases from cities, including Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Jaipur, Bangalore and Chennai. The operator currently employs five pilots and expects to add five more by the end of this year.
Pathak told AIN that sourcing flight crew was quite a challenge at the start-up phase of the business since there were no pilots type-rated on the Phenoms in India. “We had to find suitably experienced pilots on other aircraft and get them trained or type rated,” he explained. “We also had to provide them with sufficient actual flying time on the new aircraft, which was costly and time consuming.”