Who is flying by private jet now?

The perception of a typical private jet charter client is often misconceived. Some do fit the ‘super rich’ stereotype of course, but the mix of private jet users is rather more nuanced than that. And that’s never been more apparent than over the past few months.

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Private jet passengers

The profile of private jet passengers has changed over the past few months.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen a shift in our passenger profiles. A wide range of travellers who would usually fly by airline now cannot book a flight on their chosen route, or they have decided to avoid airline travel for the time being, to avoid exposure risks at the airport or in a shared airliner cabin.

As we look back over the last three months of our flights (which we do each quarter in our regular Private Jet Charter Trends report), there are key trends driven by the pandemic’s impact on travel.

Who did we fly Q3 2020

With private aviation offering a safer way to fly during the pandemic and a pent-up demand for travel after lockdowns,  demand was high in Q3. In fact at PrivateFly we arranged slightly more flights this year than last year, outperforming the overall European market.

One of the trends we saw was an increase in first-time clients – who accounted for 44% of flights over the period (versus 35% last year). These included travellers with pre-existing health conditions, or people who consider themselves or their families particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 for other reasons.

Families in fact were a growing proportion of our passengers: With business travel still very limited, most of our flights were for people going on holiday, relocating to second homes, or for other personal travel reasons. A significant 20% of our passengers were children (up from 16% last year). And by family we also include pets – our flights with dogs, cats or other furry friends doubled.

Children and pets

We flew more families (including pets) than ever before over the past quarter.

Something else that stands out is consumer uncertainty, with more clients making decisions at the last minute in case travel restrictions impact their plans. Over half of our clients chose to fly within a week of their booking date, and just 8% booked a flight more than 30 days in advance (versus 22% in 2019).

Behind the statistics, some of our flights of the quarter were particularly memorable. One was a spectacular window seat view of the Northern Lights for a UK-based client with a life-limiting illness. Our team really went the extra mile to make this a truly special experience for the whole family.

Other flights included many for sports stars, looking to move in and out of overseas fixtures as quickly and safely as possible during the pandemic. One world-class athlete booked to fly at just over three hours’ notice, as she returned from a tournament in Rome.

Where clients were flying was also different. Usually our top destinations are a global spread but with most of our clients based in Europe, and travel restrictions preventing most longer trips, our top 20 destinations were all European, with London at number one; followed by Nice Cote d’Azur and Ibiza.

In October so far, demand remains reasonably strong, but what will happen next is harder to predict for the entire industry, with so much uncertainty in the market.

Bookings continue to trend short-notice and business travel is still lower than usual, although corporate clients are researching and budgeting. But we are cautiously optimistic about the coming months. For those who want and need to fly, the appeal of private jet travel remains compelling.

Looking to fly in the next quarter? Contact our expert team for advice and personalised quotes. They’re available 24/7 on 020 7100 6960.