The coronavirus pandemic brought most things to a screeching halt in the spring of 2020. In a matter of weeks, zoom calls replaced business meetings, travel restrictions canceled important on-site business meetings and vacation plans while stay-at-home orders shut down communities around the world.
COVID-19 continues to upend many industries even as restrictions ease in most places. Private aviation, however, continues to be an outlier. The demand for charter flights soars as thousands of passengers fly privately for the first time.
According to the Robb Report, first-time private aviation customers are up by 300 percent over last year. Industry experts do not expect the demand to slow down anytime soon.
Forward-thinking investors like Bill Gates are also taking notice of the shift in air travel. As private aviation grows, so do the businesses that manufacture jets, fuel planes and even lease airplane hangars. This interest in private aviation demonstrates Gates’ and other investors’ confidence in the industry as a whole.
By all indications, it’s a wise investment. As private aviation grows, accessibility to charter flights and jet ownership expands. What was once considered to be a luxury among the elite now becomes more mainstream for both business and leisure travelers. More charters mean more opportunities for passengers to take advantage of empty legs of charter flights, for example.
Jet ownership is also on the rise as more people maximize their investment and recoup operating costs with charter revenue when their jet is not in use. Aircraft management companies, like Omni Air Transport, streamline safety, maintenance and crew staffing as well as the logistics for revenue-generating charters.
Perhaps more than anything, passengers find once they fly private, they aren’t eager to turn back. But comfort and convenience aren’t the only drivers behind this growth. As time goes on, we see there are several factors behind the increase in private aviation.
Part of the boom in private jet travel can be attributed to lower costs. In March of 2020, the cost of jet fuel hit rock bottom as demand plummeted. At the same time, the CARES act suspended a 7.5% federal excise tax (FET) on air transportation through January of 2021. Consequently, private jet travel costs were down by 15- 20 percent. Even after the tax break ended, low fuel prices continue to help keep operating costs down for charter operators and jet owners alike.
As vaccines roll out to millions of people across the globe, experts still recommend social distancing. Private aviation makes it easy for passengers to avoid crowds and minimize their risk. Private passengers can drive to their departure destination and board their aircraft with minimal contact. Many travelers are choosing to prioritize health and safety through private aviation or jet ownership.
Travel restrictions continue to make it challenging to travel outside of the United States. Virus testing and quarantine requirements change with little notice and vary greatly from destination to destination. For those who need or want to travel internationally, private flights offer the ultimate flexibility. Instead of canceling their trip altogether, charter passengers can change their itinerary to adapt to the evolving circumstances.
Many of the new private aviation customers are using charter flights for domestic travel. Several large charter providers report an increase in flights to second-home destinations like Jackson Hole, Boseman and Aspen. Canceled flights combined with health and safety concerns are pushing customers toward private flights when they might have previously flown commercial.
Private aviation is now the only way some passengers can transport their pets since many commercial airlines have suspended cargo for animals. Instead of boarding their animals for a short vacation, many people choose to stay at their destination longer and want to take their pets along. Remote work capabilities make it possible to work anywhere with an internet connection. So some are choosing to work from beach houses or other idyllic locations. Others want to leave densely populated areas and smaller living quarters to practice social distancing more comfortably. Whatever their reasons may be, passengers want to bring along their furry family members and private aviation makes it possible.
It is hard to predict exactly what will happen in the coming months. More people are gaining access to the vaccine, but new strains of the virus threaten to stall progress. However, aviation experts remain optimistic about the future of air travel. Most believe demand will continue to grow as business travelers return to the skies and popular vacation destinations resume operations. Whatever the future holds, time is still the most valuable commodity.
Once travelers experience the convenience, flexibility, privacy and time-savings that private aviation offers, they won’t be eager to turn back.
If you are interested in learning more about the long-term benefits of aircraft ownership check out our Guide to Buying or Selling a Business Jet or call our dedicated team at Omni Aircraft Sales at (918)836-4050.
Sky Pass, our charter membership program, is also an excellent way to discover where private aviation can take you.
Read about our commitment to passenger health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.