How Has Private Air Charter Service Changed During the Pandemic?

By Jason Zilberbrand

September 16, 2020 Appraisals

When is the last time you stepped foot in a commercial airport? It seems like ages ago, and for most of us, we can't wait until its 2021. In the event you do need to travel, there are options, and you can avoid the commercial airlines until they are safe again. Keep reading to learn more about chartering an aircraft.

In the current realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, It might feel like your only options are to stay at home and not take that vacation, or to have to settle for a Zoom call for an important meeting that you'd much prefer to have in person. But what other options do you have?

Enter private aircraft charter service. For many, flying on a private jet never crossed their minds, much less their wallets. But now that's all changing, as many people explore this once seemingly impossible option.

What if your next flight was on a private plane? Let's take a look at some advantages.

Private vs. Commercial Air Travel in the Pandemic

Even with significant discounts, a seat on a private jet does not come cheap. If you are willing to share a plane with other fliers (strangers), a seat can be purchased for as little $2,500 each way. While that might seem like a lot, keep in mind per-seat charter is relatively new and far more inexpensive than having to charter the entire plane yourself.

Of course, money is far from the only difference. Have you ever been standing in line at an airport, waiting to get through security, and wished you were anywhere else? I know I have, and now I just won't subject myself or loved ones (little kids) to an environment of unknown hazards and mask mandates.

Among other crisis trends, peace of mind has become a top concern for many. For one thing, flying private means, you get to skip the hassle of the airport.

It's nearly impossible to socially distance effectively at an airport. You've got security lines, ticket lines, boarding lines. It's limited space for a whole lot of people. When chartering a seat on a private jet, you get to skip all of that. Plus, you are sitting in a controlled cabin with several cleaning processes that have been put into place to protect you and the crew.

There's also the issue of many commercial routes that have simply disappeared. Many private charter companies saw increases of as much as 400% in the early days of the pandemic when many countries went into full lockdown.

Hygiene at 40,000 Feet

Another important factor when considering air travel today is the cleanliness of the plane. While commercial airlines are certainly doing all they can to maintain sanitary standards on their flights, it simply isn't realistic for them to be perfect.

Commercial airlines are still at the mercy of passenger cooperation, local guidelines, and vendors that may or may not be following the rules.

On a private flight, on the other hand, it's significantly easier to maintain a proper distance, and often you are flying only with people in your group. Many procedures have been put in place to keep you safe, like taking every passenger and crew member's temperature before boarding the aircraft. The plane can also be thoroughly cleaned between uses. Studies have shown that, when it comes to COVID, a private plane is up to 30 times safer than a commercial flight.

Who Is Flying Private?

While private aircraft travel is traditionally used mainly for corporate trips, that hasn't been the case during the pandemic.

There has been an increase in demand for private charters by individuals, and many are new to private aircraft. Keep in mind, not everyone chartering a plane is doing so on a Gulfstream G550. Many are flying twin-engine piston aircraft, turboprops, and smaller jets. Private jet charter prices are, on average, 20% lower than they were in pre-pandemic times. The truth is that even if you want to fly, there are not that many places to go.

Travel agents have said that where in previous years, around 10% of their clients would request quotes for how to buy a seat on a private jet, that number has gone up to 90% today.

Today it is not uncommon to see many people from various walks of life chartering private aircraft, and it's not just for the uber-rich anymore.

How to Find an Air Charter Service

While many corporate flyers will use programs that involve membership, like fractional providers, and some use jet cards, the typical vacationer or first-time air charter traveler might want to start with an on-demand or one-off charter flight. Like most travel options, the flights can be booked with an agent or an intermediary, or they can be booked directly with the operator. I always advise building a relationship with your local charter company; it saves a lot of disappointment, back and forth, and makes negotiations much more manageable.

There is no long term contract, no commitment. Of course, that is also a drawback. Because they are one-offs, the costs for these flights will vary based on who is operating them, even for the same flight on the same aircraft. It can be a significant time commitment to track down the best option for your exact travel needs.

If you have the means and would like more control over your future travel plans, you can also consider leasing or buying shares of a jet. There are services to appraise the aircraft before you commit, and VREF is happy to assist with the analysis.

While this option will, of course, be the most expensive, it is possible to finance fractional shares of a plane, and the trade-off is that rates will always be set, and you will never be at a loss for availability. An excellent first step here is to obtain a verified value report so you can determine the best course of ownership.

Overall, an excellent place to start is to speak with someone you know who has used private charter services themselves, and find out what they recommend. Just remember, everyone's needs are different.

Flying Private During COVID-19

The air travel landscape has changed significantly in 2020, and despite the reduction in corporate travel that has long made up the bulk of private jet travel, the industry is adapting to the new normal.

As air charter service for personal trips continues to skyrocket, the best thing you can do is to be informed on your options.

Maybe your next flight will be on a private plane?

If you need an aircraft appraisal please contact Jason Zilberbrand at Jason@Vref.com.