When will business travel return to private jet charter?

As summer comes to an end in Europe, we’re looking ahead to the seasonal shift into autumn, which usually sees a greater proportion of our private jet charter flights being for business reasons – rather than for personal or leisure travel.

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Adam in Situ- 283

Obviously this year things are rather different. This summer was very busy and during July and August, our booking levels were ahead of last summer – with enquiries at double last year’s levels. September is also remaining busy so far.

But I am not complacent in any way about the challenges ahead. This summer’s strong private jet travel demand was 90% leisure flying – families flying on holiday, moving between homes and relocating. So the big question is what will happen over the next few months, when we usually see more business travel taking place?

Legacy 500 cabin

How far can Zoom replace business travel?

There has been a lot of discussion about Zoom and other video conferencing taking away the need for business travel. And we’re certainly ones to celebrate the benefits of digital communication at PrivateFly. As a global business, all the channels we use play an important role, connecting our team with each other, with our clients and our suppliers.

But being back in the office more in recent weeks has reminded me how much easier certain things are face-to-face, and how fantastic it is to engage with my team in real life. We are recruiting and growing so for new team members especially, digital interraction has its limitations. It’s much harder to integrate, learn and to feel part of a team if it’s all remote.

Legacy 600 exterior

And of course for other businesses, there are other very strong reasons to move people from A to B, whether that’s between multiple company locations, to sign essential legal documents or undertake board meetings, or to inspect warehouses or factories at first hand.

For most companies there is a balance to strike. The pandemic has been a catalyst for change and forced so many to embrace remote working and online meetings – a positive leap forward in many ways. But it’s also shown us the value of real life interactions in other situations.

Will companies use business travel budgets differently?

We know that individual business travellers and corporates are looking at business aviation very closely and planning budgets accordingly. Private aviation offers them the ability to move senior executives and undertake other essential travel safely and in a controlled – without exposure to lots of other people on airline flights, or in large airport terminals.

Obviously it comes at a higher price point than an airline flight. But, from the conversations we’re having with both new and existing clients, I can see a scenario where there’s less business travel overall in the coming months (such as forgoing sending lots of staff to conferences and events), but where key people use business aviation more for essential travel.

But as it stands, there are still lots of unknowns. With quarantines and other border controls in flux, and airline schedules still wavering, clients naturally do not want to make plans too far ahead. I think the next few months will see much more last-minute booking, leaving a lot of uncertainty.

But we are a resilient industry and we have a huge amount to offer the business traveller, across many sectors. Times like these also create exciting opportunities for innovation and change. So we’ll be embracing that here at PrivateFly, and look forward to offering travel solutions to both new and existing clients in the coming months.

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