Flying High: Why Private Jets Are Soaring Through the Pandemic

By Jason Zilberbrand

September 28, 2020 Appraisals

The corporate aviation industry generates $150 billion every year. The pandemic-based travel caused financial chaos to every airliner globally, but unlike previous recessions, the private plane is no longer frowned upon by the general public.

Private jets swooped in to save the day, providing a safer way to travel. There are few, if any, ways to protect yourself from the virus once you arrive at a commercial airport. You will be subjected to checking your baggage, standing in line at TSA, going through security, and waiting to board your aircraft in the public area.

What was once only available for the super-rich is now available to a much larger subset of the population. There are aircraft for every budget, and while some might be larger or faster than others, they will all do the job safely. It is not uncommon to see new buyers entering the aircraft market daily, and the number once the reason is to avoid commercial flying.

When commercial airlines offered cheap fairs with attractive availability, they were the most popular option. Today, airlines are struggling to meet passenger expectations. The rules and regulations seem to change daily, and the layoffs are mounting. It's not a good time to own an airline. But there are choices, and its not just private jets, but smaller piston and turboprop aircraft too.

Now that private plane buyers are increasing, the advantages are becoming more apparent in terms of safety and affordability. Significant could sustain their rise in popularity well past the pandemic.

The more you know about the aviation industry, the easier it will be to navigate a purchase. Read on to learn the benefits that private aircraft provide compared to commercial airlines.

Benefits of Private Aircraft

One of the primary reasons that private plane sales and chartering are increasing is the simple fact that commercial routes aren't available, or the passenger won't fly on the airlines due to widespread travel bans, quarantines, or confusing regulations.

Using private planes provides several significant benefits, especially in unprecedented times such as these. They include increased safety, customized schedules, and more arrival destinations.

The phrase "private plane" conjures up an image of luxury and comfort as you fly high above the clouds in what always looks like a large cabin. The reality is that most are not flying in ultra-luxurious long-range aircraft; most are flying in entry-level jets and smaller aircraft like King Air 350s, Citation XLS's, Phenom 100 and 300's.

If you are flying on a smaller budget, you will see many flying in twin-engine Cessna's, Baron's, and many are opting for super performance modern aircraft like those offered from Cirrus and Diamond.

The truth is no matter what your budget, there is a private aircraft waiting for you; just remember to check those grandiose images at the door.

Private Aircraft Costs

There are approximately 1-2 million US households who can afford a private jet, but previous studies found only 10% of them bought one. The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way they're justifying the expense. Recently it has been reported that certain parts of the world are experiencing abnormal surges in private aircraft chartering demand. Places like the UAE have reported an increase of almost 50% for charter flight demand.

There are several options for private aircraft travel that differ in costs. Chartering is a popular option for quick trips, but purchasing a plane is an excellent long-term investment for frequent fliers who not only want to fly but fly often. Remember, if you fly less than 150 hours a year, you are better off chartering every single time.

Chartering

Not everyone who wants to travel on a private plane needs to own one, as they may only want to go on a short vacation or a quick business trip. Infrequent flying is where chartering comes in as a viable option for almost any customer.

This service involves hiring a company to fly you to your destination on a private aircraft, and this is not only a jet. There have been surges across the country in numerous aircraft types, including twin-engine piston and single-engine turboprops, as they are far more cost effective than a jet, and for shorter flights, it makes more sense. Charting is becoming more popular than ever during the pandemic because it provides convenient and safe air travel to a range of different destinations, most of which are no longer serviced by major airlines with the first-class service.

Private aircraft chartering companies are finding that up to 90% of new clients are first-time fliers. Chartered private jets charge anywhere from $4,000-$20,000 per hour, and it is not uncommon to pay $400-$600 for a single or twin-engine piston aircraft. When looking to charter, there are a couple of options, you can look up who offers chartering services at your local airport and deal with them directly, or you can go through a broker who will attempt to shop on availability, price, and aircraft type. Having been burned several times by charter brokers, I suggest contacting a local provider and if you have no idea who to call, just contact me for help at Jason@VREF.com. I will be happy to introduce you to quality operators.

Chartering is somewhat expensive, but it is still a viable travel option during the pandemic. It's safe, convenient, and cheaper than purchasing a private plane of your own.

Purchasing A Membership or Hourly Card

If private travel is your preferred method, but you don't own a plane, or more importantly, your utilization is below the minimum limit to justify owning one outfit, there are some attractive options. The first is a membership that provides you access to a seat in a predetermined fleet of aircraft. It is a hybrid of commercial and private charter as you are still sharing the cabin with strangers. You will find these programs offer access to smaller aircraft types like King Airs and Pilatus's, and they can be a significant advantage if you are in some regions of the USA like the Northeast corridor. You pay a monthly fee and then a per flight/seat fee. Membership fees get you to access to the fleet. The big operators to consider are Wheels Up and Surf Air.

The next step up is a Jet Card, where you purchase an allotment of hours upfront. Cards are usually broken up into 25-hour segments, and you have to use the hours within 24 months. Most of the fractional providers have a jet card affiliate, so look into Magellan Jets or Sentient if an hourly card is more to your liking.

The third option is fractional, and as the names suggest, you buy a portion or fraction of the aircraft and the associated costs to operate it. Fractional ownership works well if you fly over 50 hours a year and need to maintain ownership of the plane from a legal and tax perspective.

The fourth option is outright ownership, which for most, is the best option if you plan on flying more than 150 hours a year or plan on piloting the aircraft yourself.

Buying an aircraft today makes sense, as this is the lowest interest rates we've seen in years and global travel restrictions prevent you from traveling any other way.

You'll need to consider several factors before making your final purchase, including:

  • Make and model
  • Age
  • Maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Fuel
  • Additional features
  • Hangar space

These factors are essential to the process of purchasing an aircraft, no matter the circumstances surrounding it.

Where Can I Learn More About Private Aircraft and Their Values?

Private aircraft are one of the safest and most convenient forms of air travel. They provide a safer, more convenient experience. They also offer more travel options at a broader range of destinations.

A private aircraft, big or small, is a significant investment, regardless of whether you choose to charter, rent, or own the plane.

You need as much information as possible before making such a significant investment. You also need to make sure you get an accurate appraisal to see how much the aircraft is worth. Contact Jason Zilberband, ASA, for all of your appraisal needs.

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