Private Aviation During Pandemic and After Pandemic:
According to McKinsey, the aviation industry’s revenues fell to USD 328 billion in 2020, a contraction of around 60% of the previous year’s revenues. And things are not expected to grow back to 2019 levels until 2024.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a crushing effect on aviation. But not all aviation has been affected the same way. In contrast, private jet sales and the air charter service segment of the industry have steadily grown since the pandemic.
Private Jet Travel on the Upswing
The pandemic affected private aviation negatively just as much as commercial aviation. However, the pandemic’s negative effect was less profound on private aviation than on commercial aviation.
For instance, according to private aviation data company WingX, while commercial airliners flew 49% less in 2020, air charter companies’ flights fell only by 24%.
But unlike commercial aviation, private aviation is rebounding, recovering, and even growing after the initial fall. In the second half of 2020, air charter businesses and private jet sales started recovering, even beating their pre-pandemic revenues.
According to Amstat, business jet sales were up 15% in June 2020 compared to the same period the year before. This indicates that private jet sales are growing.
The secondary private jets market saw a similar upward trend. After-sales halted in the first half of the year because of the pandemic, the secondary market saw an upsurge in the latter half of 2020, with the sales and leases of preowned business jets worldwide growing by 5.2% from its 2019 levels.
Data Bridge Market Research confirms this upward trend in their report that projects global air charters will grow 3.1% annually until 2027. But air charter companies are logging an even greater increase in charter flights and revenues than this modest forecast.
One company reports 70% more flights in the first half of 2021 than the same period in 2020 and a greater-than-one-third increase in the number of flights compared to the same period in 2019. Yet another company reports a 68% increase in their first-quarter revenues and a 56% increase in their members since 2020.
A forecast by MarketsandMarkets mirrors this optimistic outlook for private aviation. Their report predicts that the global business jets market will grow to double its size this decade, from USD 18.8 billion in 2020 to USD 38 billion in 2030.
And by the third quarter of this year, the private aviation segment already started experiencing delays and canceled flights. The reason: More and more people are flying private, increasing the demand for private charter flights, causing a shortage in aircraft, and flight and cabin crew.
Indeed, if the private aviation industry can keep up with the demand, there should be no stopping the upward trend in the number of private flights and private aviation revenues.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic is a great boon to private aviation.
Private Aviation During Pandemic and After Pandemic
Pre-Pandemic: Private Flights an Extravagance
Flying private – either through air charters, corporate jets, or individually owned private jets – used to be something that seemed reserved for royalty, celebrities, billionaires, heads of states, and owners, CEOs, and directors of multinational corporations.
Flying private was not something you did just because you could. Even if private flights were highly convenient and comfortable (and still are, by the way), people considered them rather extravagant.
In fact, according to data from a private aviation company, only 10% of those who could fly private actually did. This underscores the fact that even those who could afford to fly private would much rather fly commercial than buy their private jet or charter a plane.
Pandemic Perspective Shift: Private Flights Necessary
The pandemic has resulted in a perspective shift, however. From an extravagance, private flights became a necessity because of two main reasons.
1. Unavailability of Commercial Flights
When the pandemic hit, commercial airlines had to cut back on the number of their flights. Airlines had to operate drastically below (say, a quarter of) their standard capacity.
This meant canceled and unavailable flights. And for people who had places to be regardless of the pandemic, this was a great inconvenience.
They had to find alternatives to commercial flights. Consequently, they bought their own planes or chartered private flights.
2. Concern for Health and Safety
The biggest driver of the preference for private flights during the height of the pandemic were people’s concern over health and safety.
Pandemic-related public health and safety regulations emphasize how critical social or physical distancing is and how important it is to steer clear of crowded, public spaces.
What could be more antithetical to physical distancing and avoiding crowds than commercial flights? Imagine being in a packed airplane, breathing and sharing recirculated air with hundreds of passengers for hours at a time. As a consequence, people who wanted a safer way of air travel turned to private aviation.
By flying private, you can reduce your exposure to COVID-19 and other health risks. After all, you’ll be sharing a plane only with your family, associates, or other people you’ve personally vetted.
There’s a small team of flight and cabin crew, too, so it should be easier to minimize points of contact. Compare that to flying commercially, where you don’t have any semblance of control over the people flying with you.
Additionally, from check-in to landing, there are significantly far fewer points of contact in private flights than in commercial flights.
You don’t have to risk staying in crowded terminals with all other people flying commercial. Private flights have separate terminals. Fewer people use these, so physical distancing is easier to implement and enforce.
Likewise, you don’t have to line up at check-in counters or line up to board and claim your baggage when you’re flying privately. It’s not only convenient; it’s safer, too, because it reduces your exposure to other people.
By flying on your private jet or a chartered flight, moreover, you can set your flight path. You won’t have to go on connecting flights but rather fly directly to your destination. That, again, reduces your risk of exposure and saves time.
Flying Private: More Than Just a Fad
The pandemic has underscored the health hazards of flying commercially, and people have had to seek a safer alternative. Thus, private aviation has taken off and grown to unprecedented levels.
Even after the pandemic is declared controlled and over, the chances are high that more people could still prefer flying private over flying commercial.
More people are concerned about contagion now, whereas they barely gave it a thought before. And the convenience and comfort of flying private may permanently spoil flying commercial for others.
So, at least for some who’ve tried private aviation during pandemic, flying private will continue to be the way to go post-pandemic.
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