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Pandemic May Prove a Boon for Private Aviation

A silver lining of the cloud of COVID-19 will be an increased interest in, and the use of private aviation and FBOs, according to a June 24 report on Globetrender.com. Previously shunned by some people due its expense and carbon footprint, “a new focus on personal health means usage will rocket,” says Doug Gollan, founder and editor-in-chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons, an independent buyer’s guide of private jet membership programs.

It’s already happening: as businesses begin to reopen, private aviation is bouncing back more quickly from the coronavirus pandemic than it did from the 2008 recession, according to a June 8 Bloomberg.com article. Mike Silvestro, chief executive officer of Flexjet, which provides flight services with a fleet of 160 private planes says, "Private aviation is poised to actually be the beneficiary because of the inherent nature of a safer, more familial, cleaner environment.”

Here are six private aviation trends emerging from the COVID-19 crisis:

1. First-time private jet flyers

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 10 percent of people who could afford to fly privately were doing so. In the US, it’s estimated there are between one and two million affluent households and businesses who are the potential market for private aviation. Expect to see more trying private aviation for their travel needs.

2. Great emphasis on hygiene

Since the pandemic hit, private aviation providers have been proactive in selling their health and safety advantages. Practices include mandatory face masks for flight crews and staff at FBOs, multiple daily temperature checks for COVID-19, and extra intensive cleaning before and after flights, including special anti-bacterial treatments to aircraft interiors. Magazines and newspapers have been removed from terminals and planes and private jet companies are also vetting their ground transportation partners. A study by one operator showed potential exposure to COVID-19 is 30 times lower when flying privately.

3. Lower costs of entry

At its worst point in April, the private aviation industry saw flights drop by as much as 80 percent. That has meant in some cases, previously unseen low prices for on-demand charters coming from fleet operators. For those operators with their own airplanes, with lower fuel prices, and fixed costs that don’t go away when planes are on the ground, the idea was to keep them in the air at steep discounts. At the same time, more companies launched pay-as-you-go membership programs where you pay a joining fee, and are then guaranteed flights at a fixed rate. Others reduced the typical buy-in for jet cards from 25 hours to five or 10 hours. That meant for newcomers, instead of having to wire $150,000, they could get started for under $10,000.

4. Business travel comeback

As the economy reopens, business travel is again becoming necessary. Unfortunately, with airline schedules at skeleton levels, getting to where you need to be has become more difficult. Missing a connection often means overnighting at a hub. Fewer trips can be done in a single day, and clients are still formulating policies about accepting visitors who arrive by airlines as part of their duty-of-care requirements. At the same time, companies expect to save on trade shows, conferences and other marketing expenses. They are also expanding the number of team members who qualify for private travel. The combination has meant companies that used private aviation are expanding its usage and others that hadn’t are now giving it a try, using savings from other budget items.

5. Flying to visit second homes

Due to airlines having reduced schedules, and parents concerned about the unknown impact of COVID-19 on children, those visits to second homes — typically done by driving or flying commercially — are being switched to private aviation. In some cases, it just isn’t possible to get away for that long weekend with limited commercial airline schedules. In other cases, affluent households are concerned about having to stop while driving. For these wealthy travelers who fall in the high-risk segment, they want to visit their second homes, but don’t want to risk exposure to the potentially deadly virus.

6. Protecting those with pre-existing conditions

Whether its children with asthma or diabetes, or a spouse or grandparent with a pre-existing condition or weakened immune system, flying privately is priceless for those who don’t want to risk infecting those dear to them.

What’s ahead for private aviation

Common wisdom is that once you fly privately, it’s hard to go back. Still, it’s a big cost increase compared to flying commercial. Whether or not private aviation companies can keep newfound customers is partly out of their hands. If airlines, already under huge financial pressure, decide to use the crisis to prune routes and frequencies, further reduce in-flight services for the long-term, keep lounges closed and can’t keep their planes clean, new private flyers will likely be inclined to stay away from commercial flying. 

Source: Globetrender.com

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