The Coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on both commercial and private aviation. However, when the recovery comes, it could be private jet travel which bounces back first, says Oliver Stone of Colibri Aircraft.
Many people will be worried about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 while flying, and those that can afford to fly privately may feel it reduces their chances of catching the disease. Supporting this view is the fact that according to European private jet operator GlobeAir, there are nearly 700 fewer person-to-person interactions when flying by private jet compared to commercial aircraft.
A key reason for this is transport to the airport, with most private jet users travelling to the airport by car as opposed to the public transportation services that are common links to airports around the world. Passengers flying private also spend a lot less time at the airport – the average time it takes from airport arrival to the aircraft taxiing out is 15 minutes.
Other factors that mean fewer touchpoints for private aviation passengers include:
- Private terminals have significantly fewer people in them
- There are limited or no shops or restaurants at these terminals, meaning fewer interaction points with strangers
- There are no ticket agents, kiosk machines or boarding passes for private aviation passengers
- Baggage does not need to be tagged, and there are no baggage handlers to interact with
- Private terminals can clean and disinfect more thoroughly and frequently, and toilets there are much cleaner and used less
- There are no queues at immigration
- There are far fewer passengers on the plane – or none at all
- The private aviation flight you’re on is probably the only one that day for the aircraft, whereas a commercial jet will often make five or six flights a day
The second key factor which could boost the recovery in private aviation is the fact that airlines have cancelled thousands of routes as a result of the Coronavirus, making it harder or impossible to reach certain destinations via commercial airlines. Transferring through hub airports due to direct route cancellations means longer travel times, whereas private flights are point-to-point. The time spent to board a commercial flight could also increase dramatically in the post-Coronavirus era, as new health measures are introduced at airports and by airlines, creating a costly experience for business travellers.
In addition to this, it has been reported that airline travel could increase in cost as airlines will be under huge pressure because of the losses they are incurring and the fact that they will have fewer passengers per flight. Colibri Aircraft says that before the Coronavirus crisis, many of the main airlines had average load factors of between 80% and 90%, but this is likely to remain at significantly lower levels while the recovery continues as people try to avoid large crowds in small spaces.
Finally, it is also worth remembering that employers will be even more conscious of their duty of care to staff travelling on business. This means many senior executives who would normally fly first-class may now be offered the option of travelling by private aircraft to help ensure their safety.
We need the private aviation sector back on its feet as soon as possible, not only for passengers, but also the hundreds of thousands of people directly and indirectly who work in the industry.
Born and raised in Dallas, Oliver Stone, founder of Colibri Aircraft, a brokerage and asset advisory business, sells business jets and regularly advises buyers on aircraft selection, while also consulting owners and financial institutions on how to support asset values.
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