Demand for private jets soars as rich travellers try to avoid ‘mosh pit’

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Private jet providers are experiencing “unprecedented demand” from wealthy customers seeking to avoid the “mosh pit” of commercial flights on autumn getaways as coronavirus travel restrictions ease.

Flexjet and PrivateFly, which supply private jets to rich families and business executives, said they were “experiencing exceptionally strong demand” for September and October travel at a time of year when bookings normally fall away.

Flexjet, which offers shared ownership in its fleet of private jets in Europe, said it operated 53% more flights in September than the previous month, bucking the usual seasonal trends.

Marine Eugène, the European managing director of Flexjet and PrivateFly, said: “Our industry in Europe traditionally sees a significant peak in July and August, followed by a tailing off in September – but not this year.

“We are currently experiencing exceptionally strong demand, with the appetite for personal travel not yet sated after a later start to summer due to restrictions, and now business flying is also taking off alongside.”

Eugène said the UK government’s relaxation of travel restrictions from 4 October and the US relaxation of rules for vaccinated European visitors propelled the demand for increased private jet flights, with wealthy travellers continuing to make plans for short breaks or holidays by private jet into the autumn period and later than usually seen.

She said business destinations such as Paris, Zurich, Munich, and Amsterdam had climbed back into the top 10 list of European destinations, which were previously dominated by holiday hotspots.

Wealthy UK flyers opt for private jets to evade Covid lockdowns Read more

“Many of our Flexjet owners and PrivateFly clients are starting to fly for business again and we are witnessing a release of pent-up demand for in-person meetings,” she added. “We have senior executives and entrepreneurs in sectors such as finance and technology, booking multiple itineraries to see investment targets, or make site visits.

“The US easing of its ban on UK and European travellers from November is also adding to the unusually high demand in the final quarter of the year.”

During the early stages of the pandemic, wealthy people had turned to chartering private jets for “evacuation flights” out of countries hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Private jets emit about 20 times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than commercial flights, according to industry data.

Brian Foley, an aviation analyst, said demand for private jet flights had started to feed through to increased orders for new plane construction after a decline in 2020 that was the first annual fall in new jet deliveries in more than a decade. Foley said the demand was being driven by “well-heeled travellers look[ing] for alternatives to the airlines’ crowded terminals and being shoehorned into a middle seat next to strangers”.

“[They are] looking to private jet charter or fractional ownership to avoid the mosh pit. Objective data showed business jet travel quickly climbing back toward pre-pandemic levels, while airlines continued to languish.”

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Foley said the big private jet manufacturers were reporting twice as many orders for jets as the number they were currently producing, leading to “meaningful ramp-up” in production capabilities.

“Since aeroplane production can’t be increased with the flip of a switch, overall 2021 deliveries won’t be all that different from previous years over the past decade,” he said. “However, as OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] gain confidence that the increased demand is real, and that they can crank out more planes without the risk of unsold units becoming expensive lawn ornaments, the spin-up will become more pronounced.”

His consultancy, Brian Foley Associates, has predicted that about 700 new private jets will be delivered in 2021 – roughly the same as previous years. However, he said a “meaningful ramp-up will begin in 2022 and continue unabated for several years, easily surpassing the 900-unit level for the first time since 2007”.

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