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A Cessna Citation Sovereign banks after departure (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ian McMurtry)

Private Flights Rebound Quickly, Offer Competitive Travel Options 

As most commercial airlines are positioning themselves to ride the upcoming travel recovery wave in the post-coronavirus era, one sector of commercial aviation travel has already seen very positive recovery signs.

Industry data is showing that private jet travel has sharply increased in the month of May and into early June with future booking outlook looking strong.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) monthly Business Jet report showed a sharp increase in business jet departures for the month of May. Over 190,000 departures were made in May, an increase of nearly 100,000 departures from April which is the low point for private jet departures for this year. Prior to the pandemic driven reductions, private jet departures averaged about 300,000 per month but the number plummeted in April to 97,000.

Avinode, an aircraft charter sourcing firm, confirms the FAA private jet departure data. Avinode data shows that the number of U.S. charter aircraft requests has returned to near pre-pandemic levels in the month of May. Many other charter sourcing companies are reporting similar results.

The outlook ahead looks promising. “Demand for travel in June is higher at this point than it was at the equivalent stage last year, reflecting a surge in interest in private charter as stay-at-home orders ease. Early demand is coming back for July too,” according to a statement on the Avinode website.

The Avinode data shows similar charter demand returning in Europe too although the recovery is slower than what is being seen in the U.S.

Several factors are believed to be responsible for the uptick in private jet travel demand, not the least of which is affordability.

Business travel is virtually nonexistent as most businesses are still shutdown or just starting to open back up. This results in significant aircraft availability and increased competition for the charter business.

Charter prices are down by as much as 30% to 50% in some markets. Further factors driving costs down is the suspension of certain taxes under the CARES economic stimulus package put in place by the U.S. government earlier this year.

As a result, charter aircraft traveling has become an attractive economic option. On a per-seat basis, a charter aircraft seat is comparable to a business class or first class seat on a commercial airline on many routes.

For instance, chartering a mid-size private jet today from New York to Miami costs around $10,000, according to Avinode. Many private jets can seat around eight to 10 passengers and the flight could cost as little as $1,200 a person.

When you add in the convenience, comfort and smaller COVID-19 family-friendly cabin, the decision to travel privately may be an easier decision to make.

NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway owned private jet firm, told CNBC that it signed more new clients in the month of May than it did in its last biggest month in December 2007.

NetJets’ Pat Gallagher, President of Sales, Marketing and Service said in an interview with CNBC that, “What we are seeing today is predominantly personal travel with people traveling to see loved ones, moving between homes and otherwise looking for an escape from wherever they have been hunkered down through the pandemic.”

Rick Shideler
Rick Shideler
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