August 13, 2020
By: Helen Ames, Carly Reed and Virginia Ngai
I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…. The folksy John Denver ballad rings truer than ever as more people seek alternatives to conventional modes of travel in a time of great uncertainty. One option is private air – once thought of as only for the rich and famous – but is increasingly being sought out for the convenience and the protection it provides over commercial flying in social distancing.
The proof is in the numbers. Air Charter Service (ACS), the world’s largest private aircraft company received more than 75% of global inquiries than normal over a two-month period this summer. UK-based inquiries alone accounted for a 250% increase. Many of these enquiries were from first-time private jet users, and, according to ACS, the conversion rate shows promise, for them and other air booking companies such as VistaJet, reporting a 16% YOY increase with strong demand from all regions.
The U.S. registered the greatest number of flights during the first two months of the year, making up 23% of global flights. Despite the deep impact of the virus spreading across Asia, demand from the continent remains stable at 11%.
Here are five reasons why flying private is having its moment:
1. Pre-Flight Check List Includes Safety and Well-Being
In many parts of the world, the pandemic has returned for an unwelcomed second or even a third wave causing travellers to seek out other means of transportation that limits exposure to pathogens and viruses. “Travellers want to avoid exposure to potential viruses and germs, especially older travellers with health issues,” said Richard Thompson, president, Air Charter Service. “We have been arranging private jet travel for existing as well as new clients who are looking for a better way to travel than commercial, and with more peace of mind. The typical customer is someone who normally flies first-class but is now looking to limit exposure to large crowds, avoid airport hassles and be in more control of their flight experience.”
Research conducted by Air Charter Service shows that on-average, a private air passenger will only encounter an estimated 8 people when traveling by private jet, from home to destination arrival, compared to up to 1,045 on a commercial flight journey. ACS is leading the charge in ensuring their suppliers follow prescribed health protocols, with jet companies such as VistaJet partnering with innovative telemedicine solutions like Remote Diagnostic Technologies (RDT), a Philips company, and MedAire to install TempusIC2 monitors in their fleet. This technology allows airplane crew to assist passengers and transmit critical medical information in real-time to a 24/7 team on the ground if a health situation arises in-flight.
2. Your Jet Awaits You
Flying by private jet is a lifestyle choice where passengers can experience an entirely bespoke white glove, end to end service tailored exclusively to them. You are not restricted to stringent timings like that of commercial airline schedules, you create your very own schedule. You can manage your own timeline – if you’re running late the plane will wait for you, or if you want to change your departure time, this can easily be done. The private travel experience is seamless, and passengers can avoid long queues and crowds at busy airports. We are living day to day with an ever-changing global landscape and flying privately enables the most nimble and flexible choice for both business and leisure travel. There is no such thing as forward planning right now, Air Charter Service is currently reporting average lead times of just three days with some bookings being made just hours before wheels up.
3. Flying into remote places and far out spaces
With concerns over crowds and busy terminals, passengers are looking for more hygienic ways to travel and destinations that offer ultimate isolation and privacy. One of the greatest benefits of flying privately is the ability to avoid those larger airports and land in smaller, exclusive hideaways to find some of the world’s most hidden gems such as Calivigny Island in Grenada, Naladu Private Island Maldives, Punta Tragara in Capri and Fogo Island in New Foundland, Canada. Travellers today are looking for safe places to visit where their experience and the service they receive is not compromised. Highly personalized itineraries to destinations that offer wide-open spaces, natural beauty, magnificent vistas and plenty of outdoor exploration are a must. After months of inactivity and isolation, and as travel restrictions are starting to lift, people are craving opportunities to be active with family and friends with common interests, especially hiking, water sports and seeing natural wonders.
4. Always on Availability
These days, the only constants seem to be change and confusion. Whether it’s travel restrictions and border control measures or quarantine procedures, countries and even cities are changing rules constantly—and often at extremely short notice. As a result of lockdowns in various places, many domestic and international routes have been suspended, except for repatriation flights to bring people home. The catch is that the process of securing seats on these flights can be arduous and uncertain, as they often hinge on government demand and passenger capacity. Private aviation, on the other hand, is uniquely positioned to respond to on-demand flight needs from or to any place in the world. Air Charter Service has access to small, medium and jumbo jets for any travel need, and VistaJet, pioneered an innovative service in which customers receive on-demand access to an entire fleet while paying only for the hours they fly; its signature membership also offers a tailored subscription of flight hours which allows customers to fly virtually anytime and anywhere.
5. The Promise of Luxury and Comfort will Encourage Travellers to Fly
It will be a while until people can experience commercial travel without tests, worry and quarantining. Long gone are most of the 2020 travel trends forecasted before the pandemic. Road trips by car or RV are as popular as they were in the 1960s but with a bit more luxurious bells and whistles. People are inclined to travel again—but they will be more conscious of minimized physical contact, high standards when it comes to hygiene, and special, smaller encounters shared with controlled groups of people. Travel opportunities that speak to concerns about health and overall wellbeing will thrive. It’s why offerings such as Vista Jet’s Safe Havens, a portfolio of exclusive-use destinations and health-enhancing escapes in places like Colorado, and to more remote spots such as the Galapagos Islands, South Africa, and Antarctica, are poised to succeed in this space. In the time of coronavirus, the promise of extraordinary experiences and heightened measures to safeguard health and safety will justify—and perhaps even incentivize travel again.
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