While the pandemic severely damaged airlines, which are still struggling to return to normalcy, one area of aviation has been thriving ever since: private jet charters.
Even though it’s an exorbitantly expensive way to travel but one that is picking up an astonishing amount of steam in 2022 due to privacy, safety from the virus, the reduction of scheduled services and the need for people to travel for business, healthcare or pleasure.
When flights restarted, the pandemic compelled social distancing everywhere, including in the aviation industry. Capacity was significantly reduced as a result of airlines ceasing operations and nations prohibiting or limiting regularly scheduled commercial flights in accordance with the so-called Air Bubbles. However, the market for charter flights was formed, or rather significantly boosted, by people who had a pressing need to fly and had the means to do so.
Top executives and entertainers were frequently linked with business Jets, but they now make up about a quarter of US flights, about twice as much as they did prior to the pandemic. Small private charters are the most expensive category within the segment, wherein 8-10 people, usually, corporates, travel on a single aircraft. Before the pandemic, high-end corporates hired business jets only for business purposes but during the pandemic, they started using such jets for their families also.
Corporates using private jets are understandable but what emerged during the pandemic was another completely new segment. During the pandemic, upper-middle-class people with jobs abroad or families stranded started using these to get back to their places of work or family reunions.
In a recent article, Robb Report’s Michael Verdon describes a new surge in private jet travel bookings as well-to-do travellers return to the skies for summer travel. Verdon discovered that, the number of private business and leisure charter bookings in 2022 has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
European business jet demand in the month of June is hitting a record high. The most recent week, week 25, has seen 16,000 business jet flights, 16% more activity than week 25 in 2021. Compared to 2019, June 2022 has seen a growth of 19% in business jet departures, in line with the 20% growth in May 2022 vs 2019. The most conspicuous growth compared to last year is in UK and Italy, respectively 73% and 28% more business jet flights in week 25 than in June last year. There are signs of an even stronger rebound in the European charter business. Both France and Germany have seen 40% increases in business jet charters in week 25 in 2022 and 2021 respectively.
The lion’s share of summer travelling aboard private jets has been conducted via domestic U.S. flights, according to WingX Global Market Tracker. More than 134,000 private business jet movements were recorded in the month of June alone in the United States—an increase of nearly 70 per cent from monthly figures from 2020 and 25 per cent from 2021. One of the main drivers of this boost was an influx of first-time charter flyers brought about by the pandemic.
The surge in private jet flights coincides with a slew of commercial flight cancellations as major airlines struggle to meet unprecedented demand in the face of a continuing pilot shortage. The average cost of travel has skyrocketed due to high fuel prices and a wave of cancellations, with major US airlines raising ticket rates by 40% from January to April.
With more people flying private, the number of destinations they fly to has also increased. private aircraft operators believe the outlook for the segment is rosy. Greater demand for charters will come from professionals such as lawyers, doctors, businesses as well as sports teams for charters, which will give them a greater sense of safety, privacy and the convenience of operating per their schedule.