Post-COVID-19 Air Travel

There is much discussion at the moment about what travel (of all kinds) will look like as we live alongside the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

While none of us has a crystal ball, a few trends are now starting to emerge as we start to move closer to a post-lockdown situation.

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What is certainly clear is that commercial airlines will be severely impacted. Major airlines have grounded fleets both in the US and internationally, with thousands of crew and other staff laid off or furloughed. It’s a dire situation for these employees and their families.

Bouncing back will take time for airlines, with aircraft out of action for long periods, and crew and workforces depleted. Not to mention grappling with the operational challenges of adjusting to increased hygiene, safety and social distancing measures.

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And of course there is also the question of how much airline demand will return. How many travelers will still want to fly commercially? Given the unavoidable close proximity to large numbers of other passengers onboard and at the airport, it’s plausible that many will decrease their air travel or opt for private flights.

For those who are prepared to pay a premium, private jet travel offers far more control over the travel environment; sharing an aircraft cabin only with a small number of close contacts and avoiding the main airport terminal can provide a bit more peace of mind.

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While airline options were off the table altogether for many clients we’ve flown in the past two months, others have told us they chose a private flight because they were very worried about exposure to COVID-19 – especially for older passengers or those with underlying health conditions.

The private jet industry is responding well to these concerns. In addition to the reduced exposure to other people that it already brings, aircraft operators, FBOs and industry suppliers (such as fuel and catering companies) are introducing new health and safety procedures related to COVID-19 to reduce risks even further.

While operations are still very limited across country borders, the private jet charter industry remains operational, albeit at lower levels and with a more complex checklist before a flight can go forward. At PrivateFly we are still providing repatriation flights, cargo flights, and a variety of other essential travel.

In terms of forward bookings, we are starting to see small and steady gains as regular customers start to research and book trips ahead. Some have told us they intend to use private aviation more in future (rather than their usual mix of airline and private flights). We expect the early demand for travel will be largely domestic.

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We have certainly flown many first-time private jet users since this crisis began but it’s not yet clear if we’ll see a sustained wave of new customers entering the market. There may be people who have the means to travel by private jet but chose not to in the past, who are now swayed by the advantages. Or those who need to make an essential trip as a one-off and don’t want to take any risks.

As we all start moving again, businesses and individuals will need to start making decisions about air travel. And there’s a lot of unknowns. Can video conferencing replace some business travel – and at what level? Will companies send fewer employees on trips going forwards, or just send senior executives? What airline routes will still be available, and how will people fill the gaps? How will airline pricing be impacted?

What is certain is that private aviation can play a critical role in restarting our economies. Our clients include business leaders from all industries, and many will want to start traveling again, as safely as possible, in order to rebuild their businesses.

Private aviation won’t be the answer for everyone and there is still a long way to go. But we are hopeful and optimistic that with so much to offer, we will see a strong demand return.

Still have questions or need to request a flight? Call us at (866) 726-1222 or contact us online