How COVID-19 changed our flights & clients in Q1

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing all our lives so profoundly, in almost every respect. And of course travel – including private jet charter – is seeing a huge impact.

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Private jet on runway yellow sky

At PrivateFly and across the on-demand charter segment, we actually saw a significant increase in both enquiries and bookings during March, when airlines grounded fleets and many displaced people were looking for ways to get themselves, their loved ones or their employees home.

But this busy first quarter has now been followed by a drop in April, when border and passenger restrictions are seeing some unable to travel (although we are still operating and working very hard to fly clients where we possibly can, including many repatriations). And many others not needing or wanting to. The weeks and months ahead are set to be a challenging time for the whole industry.

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Larger cabin jets, like the Challenger 300 were more popular in Q1, due to longer range repatriation flights.

Looking back at the first quarter, our new Private Jet Charter Trends report for Q1 reflects a very different set of requirements and behaviours from our clients, compared to our usual insights.

New York & London

While New York and London were our top two destinations, we saw a much more diverse mix overall, as we flew so many people home, to places all over the world.

Lead times were shorter, and while usually around half of our private charters are on light jets seating 4-6 people, instead we saw a bigger shift towards larger cabin charters, as activity focused around repatriations and evacuations. The 8-seater Challenger 300 was our most-chartered aircraft model.


These are some of the key findings from our Q1 2020 report:

Increased demand for longer flights and larger aircraft – transcontinental evacuations and repatriations saw long range and super midsize aircraft performing 34% of flights (versus 18% in Q1).

Lead times got shorter, with clients in a hurry to navigate impending lockdowns or travel restrictions. 60% of flights were booked to fly within a week, and 23% the same or next day (versus 15% last year)

Tuesday, March 17 was our busiest day for take-offs in the quarter, when repatriation flight demand peaked.

New York City remained PrivateFly’s top global destination, with London at number one in Europe. But we experienced a more diverse destination list overall, flying clients home to many different parts of the world.

To request a PDF copy of PrivateFly’s Q1 Private Jet Charter Trends report, email If you would like advice or pricing on an urgent private flight now, or for future plans, contact our team 24/7 on 020 7100 6960.