While holidays and air travel have been devastated by COVID 19, the private jet sector has enjoyed a mini boom with many customers using private aircraft for the first time. No longer just used by the rich and famous, families of all sizes and even cats and dogs have been taking the private route.
A mad dash to see loved ones, a visit to a second home or just the desire for minimal interaction with other passengers are some of the reasons given for splashing out on private flights.
With the downturn in business travel, there has been a shift from corporate bookings to leisure bookings since the pandemic, says aviation services group Air Partner, with convenience and privacy attracting a younger 30-40 year old crowd many of whom have bought flying hours with the JetCard which comes with the flexibility to cancel flights with 24 hours’ notice. Those who are new to private jets, or not regular users of them, are the people who before the pandemic were flying business and first class with commercial airlines and the rise in leisure business has seen an increase in families making private jet travel arrangements.
The private option is not cheap, but canny travellers are finding ways to make it more affordable. During the summer last year, many multi-generation families or extended larger families shared the cost of travel to spend holidays together.
Air Partner quotes £8,500 for a party of four to fly one way from London to Nice, or from around £18,900 for a party of twelve in July or August this year. OrGreece (Mykonos) from around £18,900 for a party of four.
Top European destinations are Greece, Cyprus, and Portugal. An increase in long haul trips is also forecast especially for business to/from the US with an air corridor potentially open on 1 June. The Caribbean could be a top booking spot this year with visa arrangements and reasonable accommodation prices for long terms stays offered by some Caribbean islands which may entice people to work remotely from villas on the beach.
But going private is not just for overseas travel. With the rise in staycations, helicopter travel will be a great alternative for people who want to travel domestically and avoid inevitable traffic congestion. JetCard hours can be used for helicopter travel.
Aviation company Private Fly says the majority of its flights over the past year have been for personal reasons, rather than for business. In addition to family holidays and trips to second homes, this has included repatriations, medical flights and reuniting families. The private jet provider has also arranged many relocations with pets (who can travel in the cabin with their owner on a private flight), including one family returning to the UK from Italy with 16 cats!
The company’s longest pandemic flight arranged was from London to Auckland, New Zealand, booked by a family desperate to get home.
One company, Sentinel Aviation, was actually founded in the middle of the global pandemic last year specifically to deliver a discreet and safe aircraft charter and management experience for private clients.
With the likelihood that either a vaccination or negative PCR test will be required for international travel, Sentinel Aviation says it will offer an exclusive service whereby a motorcycle courier delivers PCR test kits to the client’s house, waits for the individual to do the test, and then deliver the test straight to the laboratory. This aims to cut the time to get a result from the usual 24-48hrs to just a 3 hour turnaround (within the M25), covering the option for passengers to travel at short notice for business or leisure.
Flying privately has a number of benefits which are particularly pertinent at the moment, says Sentinel. These include fewer people in your bubble, avoidance of airport crowds, higher levels of hygiene aboard, no connections and flights at your chosen time.
Top London airport for private charters are Farnborough, Luton, Biggin Hill and Stansted but Gatwick is also popular.
Of course any restrictions on travel to certain countries still apply however you choose to fly
Air Partner airpartner.com
Private Fly privatefly.com
Sentinel Aviation sentinel-aviation.com