What is the future for private jet travel in the COVID-19 era?

There is much discussion at the moment about what travel (of all kinds) will look like, as we live alongside the Coronavirus. I’m frequently being asked for my views on the future for private jet charter. None of us has a crystal ball, but a few trends are now starting to emerge, as we start to move closer to a post-lockdown situation.

Contact our team

Legacy 600 interior cabin with sofa 700x466

What is certainly clear is that commercial airlines will be severely impacted. Major airlines have grounded fleets both in Europe 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.

Will people feel comfortable now flying by airline?

And of course there is also the question of how much airline demand will return. How many travellers will still want to fly – given the unavoidable close proximity to large numbers of other passengers onboard and at the airport?

Whether it’s for leisure or business, people will be weighing up the risks of putting their families or employees in that situation. And considering if there are alternatives when they still want or need to travel.

Busy airline cabin

It’s not yet known how people will feel about airline travel, with its unavoidable proximity to others.

One of those alternatives is private aviation. 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.

The risk-reduction advantages of private aviation

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 those with older passengers in their group, or who have 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.

Cleaning private jets

Additional health and safety measures are in place on private jets and at private airport terminals.

These include cabin disinfection and enhanced cleaning between flights; changes to crew routines and protocols; and new procedures for aircraft crews and at airport staff (read more on health & safety changes in private aviation). Industry bodies, including the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and Air Charter Association, are working hard to coordinate these measures and bring in more.

Will there be more demand for private jet travel going forwards?

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 take place. Currently at PrivateFly we are still providing repatriation flights, cargo flights and a variety of other essential travel.

In terms of forward bookings, in the last couple of weeks we are starting to see small and steady gains as regular customers are wanting to travel, and are starting 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 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 will need to make an essential trip as a one-off and don’t want to take any risks.

Passenger on private jet

Will more people choose private aviation in future?

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, and just send senior executives on a private flight instead? 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 travelling 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 I am hopeful and optimistic that, with so much to offer, we will see a strong demand return.

Contact us

To speak to our expert Flight Team about your flight requirements, call us (24/7) on 020 7100 6960 or contact us.