A group of wealthy wannabe holidaymakers defied the Covid-19 lockdown to take to the skies in a private jet – trying to get from London to the millionaires playground of Cannes. The group was promptly turned around again, without even disembarking, by incredulous French authorities who told them in no uncertain terms to go home. But, their failed trip notwithstanding, what impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on the private jet industry?
Private jet firms have reported an influx of queries, largely from people desperate to return to their own country, and finding either that air traffic restrictions make it almost impossible to complete their journey, or because they feel they could be less likely to be at risk of contracting Covid-19 on a jet with fewer people onboard.
With commercial fleets severely cutting back on capacity, wealthy Chinese families have paid in the region of $20,000 for their student sons and daughters to repatriate from the US on private jets. While passengers who have never flown by private jet have also inundated private aviation firms with questions and booking queries, snapping up expensive seats to get home.
Private aviation firms have been marketing their services to those who want to travel, but don’t feel safe on a plane full of passengers.
A social media advertisement from India-based Club One Air, for example, states that travelling by private jet decreases airport exposure risks, decreases risk of exposure to other passengers, that you know the travel history of your pilots and attendants, and are able to control the cabin environment.
However, with many passengers now already where they want to go, lockdowns banning people from leaving their homes except for essentials across the world, and many corporations implementing major cost-cutting measures, the initial repatriation boom for private jets may be short-lived.
Industry analysts believe an influx of private jets may soon hit the market as businesses go bankrupt as a direct result of the Covid-19 crisis. The Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association, for example, has reported it has already been approached by a couple of members looking to sell their jets.
Some industry insiders, however, remain optimistic amid this unprecedented situation. Dubai-based Jetex CEO Adel Mardini, for example, believes the private jet industry may actually be the first aviation sector to recover in a post Covid-19 world, as a result of pent-up demand for travel and the potential that travelers who can afford it may feel safer flying via private jet.