Do Bollywood stars really own private jets?

The Xennial
·4-min read

A Quora user busts myths around all those cool Insta posts.

Akshay Kumar recently made news for supposedly having bought a private jet. The movie star made some $45 million last year, putting him in the league of some of the top actors on the planet. Kumar was the only Indian in Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid actors putting him in the exclusive set. Kumar himself never confirmed the story about the jet, neither did he deny it, which may have made it easier for the story to take a life of its own.

There is no doubt that Akshay Kumar is the highest paid actor in the country. With movies that make millions of dollars at the box office, it is easy to assume that Kumar could afford a private jet. In fact, Bollywood’s relationship with private jets has been well documented thanks to Instagram. It isn’t unusual to see movie stars taking selfies on private jets, especially during movie promotions. So it’s easy to believe that they own a jet which they use to fly around the country and, indeed, the world.

In the past, there have been stories in the media about Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan et al owning private jets. Yet, not a single star has ever confirmed owning a jet. Which is curious, right? Why wouldn’t you confirm owning a jet even though you don’t mind getting photographed in one.

According to one Quora user, Denver Johnson, “They are rich but not that rich to own something like a Gulf Stream 650 or a Dassault Falcon. (They can possibly) own something like a Honda Jet or a Phenom 100/300. Other celebrities like Shilpa Shetty, Tiger Shroff, and Hrithik Roshan won’t even be able to afford a twin engine prop.”

Johnson points out that buying a jet is one thing, maintaining it is another thing altogether. “Mumbai and other major cities charge you a bomb per month to keep the jets parked. It’s almost (Rs) 60k a day for a medium sized jet. The larger ones are in upwards of (Rs) 1.5 lakh a day. Then you have pilot salaries, air plane insurance, fuel costs, state and airport duties, landing fees, annual and regular maintenance charges of the aircraft like engine overhauls, oil changes, electric and other supply costs.

“To own a Learjet 60 for example in India will cost you about (Rs) 50 lakh a month minimum. This is bare bones with minimal travel of let’s say 25-50 hours a year. So let’s say with frequent travel ie about 300-400 hours a year the cost would be about Rs 2 to 2.5 crore a month which works out to about Rs 30 crore a year.”

To be fair, Quora isn’t the most reliable source of knowledge and the figures Johnson throws may not entirely be accurate though he makes a point when he says that a Learjet 60 would roughly cost about $20 million (or about Rs 150 crore). “No one has that kind of liquid cash at their disposal,” he points out. “At least none of the Bollywood celebs (do) and this goes for even Shah Rukh, Salman or Amitabh.”

And this may well be true. It doesn’t matter how much Akshay Kumar or any other Bollywood celebrity says they make, it is a fair estimation that only a handful of people would have so much cash at their disposal. Those would be industrialists such as the Ambanis, Birlas, Tatas et al. Even so, there’s a good possibility that these men don’t own the aircraft, their companies do. They happen to own the company, which makes it easier for them to fly private when their heart desires. As with assets like motor cars, companies can file for depreciation costs with aircraft making it possible for them to actually save some money even while owning the aircraft.

For most part, it is safe to say that movie stars are rich enough to rent a jet every once in a while. And when you really, really look at their Instagram closely, you will see that they tend to fly private mostly for work, which is when the production house would underwrite their cost of flying. When they do have to fly for personal visits, most movie stars would likely prefer to fly commercial. Which is how you see them arriving at the same terminal in Mumbai as the rest of us.

The practice of renting a private jet is however on the rise.

COVID-19 has given the private air charter business a major boost and it’s quite likely that more HNIs would opt to fly private or do group charters in these times of a pandemic. It is safe to assume, Bollywood stars would be among those.