First-time private jet fliers on the rise during pandemic outbreak

Reasons for travel by first-time fliers? Visiting the family for special occasions (Thanksgiving in the near future), transporting elderly family members who are deemed high-risk, enhanced safety standards and fears surrounding commercial travel have all elevated the demand.

It is not an overstatement to say that the travel industry changed forever because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Commercial airlines have grounded fleets and reduced staff due to a historic drop in demand. The private aviation market is no exception and has also had the need to adapt, with a diversified pool of operations allowing certain stability in demand.

Nevertheless, possibly the main difference for the business air segment has been a change in the behavior of travelers. Whereas some months ago flights were booked for business or pleasure, ever since the pandemic started in late 2019, social distancing and avoiding crowds are the main traits pursued by clients.

Right in the core of the South Florida business aviation hub lies Mercury Jets, the Fort Lauderdale-based air charter provider company that is witnessing a change in what is driving clients to charter private jets. Whereas yesterday executive aircraft were booked for pleasure or business, today, and since the outbreak in late 2019, safety has been the main asset pursued by travelers.

Reasons for travel by first-time fliers? Visiting the family for special occasions (Thanksgiving in the near future), transporting elderly family members who are deemed high-risk, enhanced safety standards and fears surrounding commercial travel have all elevated the demand.

What explains this shift? Ryan DeBruyne, Director of Charter Sales for Mercury Jets describes that private aviation allows controlling a large extent of the travel experience, compared to its commercial counterpart. “During the pandemic, being able to use a private terminal and avoid crowded airports, as well as choosing who to travel with, will reduce the exposure to the virus and the overall touchpoints. Safety is why people are opting for private jet travel today instead of other means of transportation, thus elevating the number of first-time private jet fliers.

Other variables favoring an increase in demand are flight reduction and restrictions placed on commercial travel, and because of the flight decreases for commercial operators, the connections are limited and, in some cases, no longer available. Private travel does not have the same issue. Private air charter operators can receive approval from government authorities to land or depart from designated airports and avoid multiple stops or connections.

What to expect in 2021?
Booking cancellations and grounded aircraft have been the norm for months, and those passengers in need to fly are opting for private air transportation. In main hubs worldwide, it is even normal to see the same amount of private jets as commercial aircraft in the skies. Under this scenario, Mercury Jets predicts that private flying will slowly return to normal by the start of 2021. Private aviation has endured challenges just like the entire aviation industry during the pandemic. And the main element causing the reduction in volume is a lack of motive to travel; there are no business nor board meetings, conferences, weddings, and sports events, within others. “We estimate that the total percentage of private fliers versus commercial passengers has increased, but the overall volume has declined”, adds DeBruyne.

Furthermore, another challenge surrounding private aviation today is that aircraft owners are limiting the overall availability by opting not to charter their planes outside the immediate family due to increased health concerns. This important factor raises the demand of charter companies globally, but also lowers the supply.

The private aviation market is indeed a couple of steps ahead of the curve thanks to exclusive boarding and the possibility to choose who is in the cabin. It is also an added value when clients can manage, to a large extent, their travel process.

Crises bring opportunities, and due to the lower fuel prices and the need of operators to move their aircraft, prices are significantly lower. If you need to fly safely, reliably and at a great rate, private aviation, again, is today’s best option.

With professionalism, awareness, always going above and beyond regarding safety standards, and a customer-centric culture, private aviation can continue having a key role throughout challenging times. Private aviation has been a solution for many humanitarian disasters and Covid-19 will not be an exception to that. The private aviation industry is committed to providing a safe travel experience while eliminating the risk factors involved in commercial travel. Overall, it is a safer approach tailored to the needs of passengers worldwide, concludes Ryan DeBruyne of Mercury Jets.