If asked to describe the type of person who flies on a private jet, most people will probably think of a famous pop star, a movie legend or a business tycoon. But aviation experts say there is a new breed emerging.
It has been a hugely difficult year for the aviation industry, but private jets have continued to fly throughout the pandemic and the number of people enquiring about chartering a private jet has risen. That’s understandable when you consider that private jets can often travel to destinations where scheduled airlines cannot go, given that there are no other passengers on board.
Kathy Leroy, VIP charter manager at Chapman Freeborn, a global VIP private jet charter specialist, has dealt with some of the most famous celebrities in the world, helping them to travel safely, quickly and privately to destinations across the globe. Part of her job is to ensure their every need and desire is looked after when on board and to provide the extra luxury touches which make flying on a private jet so glamorous.
However, she has noticed a new breed of client emerging during the pandemic, one who is trying out private jet charter for the first time and who is far more focused on cost and safety. She said: “Over the last year, there has certainly been greater interest from people who have never flown on a private jet before.
“For instance, clients who have previously flown first class on a long-haul flight might choose to take a private jet from somewhere nearer to home when they go on holiday.
“Then there have been businesspeople who simply needed a way to get to their office or factory in another country.
“As a result, there has been at least a 15 per cent increase in enquiries from passengers who have never considered chartering a private jet before. It will be interesting to see if that continues this summer, but it has certainly been a trend so far.”
There’s no doubt the pandemic has been one of the key drivers for this new jet set, with people increasingly nervous about crowds at the airport and travelling on a packed plane with so many other passengers.
So, will the new jet set continue to travel in style when social distancing, we hope, is a thing of the past?
“Let’s wait and see,” said Kathy. “Nervousness of crowded airports and concerns about infection may well last for a long time, and once you have discovered the joys of travelling on a private jet it can also be addictive! It is such a wonderful way to get to your destination.
“However, as flight volumes for scheduled flights recover it is certainly possible that private flights will continue to be more widely adopted.”
Many of the new breed are business flyers who have found other methods of travel blocked. However, there has also been a big uptake in flights to holiday destinations and from wealthy individuals wanting to get to their second home abroad.
Kathy added: “It has been a range of people making enquiries. From CEOs needing an alternative to their regular commute to wealthy individuals looking to escape for a luxury holiday. Perhaps in the past they chose to travel first class on a scheduled airline to the Maldives, but they now fly privately to European hotspots such as Nice, Mykonos, Ibiza, Olbia, Croatia, Mykonos and Portugal. Or further afield once restrictions are lifted.
“This new class of client has had very little exposure to private flights in the past but is now seeing it as a necessity and as a ‘new norm’, especially as they seek to move between their global residences, leaving city living behind in favour of a more rural retreat.
“There is a big trend for wealthy individuals in the Middle East to move out of the region in the heat of the summer and then back again in the winter, for instance. Then there are clients who move regularly in the ski season. Now we have clients who simply want to isolate in their country residence where they feel safer.
“In big countries such as the United States, many of the flights taken are not even international. It is quite common for private jets to be used to travel within the country. In fact, we have a client in America who has used private jets almost every day to get to his factory during the pandemic.”
Of course, not everybody can afford to charter a private jet, but Kathy believes some flyers are pleasantly surprised when they find out what is available and how much it will cost. She said: “It depends on what aircraft you choose and what your needs are, but people are often surprised to find it can be more cost effective than they expect – especially if they keep an eye out for ‘empty legs’ when an aircraft is due to fly back empty from a destination and fees are reduced.
“You also have to consider that private jets fly direct to the airport nearest your destination, often a private regional airfield, cutting down on onward travel and overnight stays.
“In addition, if your meeting overruns then the aircraft waits for you, there’s no stress around having to book another flight or needing to stay another night.
“Then there is the prestige and outstanding service that comes with flying on a private jet, which is a powerful incentive.
“We’re not saying it’s for everybody’s budget, but the demographic is certainly shifting as more people consider the benefits.”
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