At a time when airlines are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, private jet companies are very popular and are doing well.
As the calls for help from companies on the verge of bankruptcy multiply across the planet, this sector of air transport reserved for a privileged few is more flourishing than ever.
Emails and phone calls continue to pour in, said Richard Zaher, CEO of a private jet company based in the United States.
“Inquiries have exploded” by 400%, he told AFP, noting that due to the coronavirus his company, Paramount Business Jets, had recorded a jump of around 20 to 25% of reservations .
“Our regular customers fly as usual. However, we know an influx of customers and the majority of them have never flown in a private jet,” said the CEO.
A feeling of fear mixed with travel bans have led airlines in recent weeks to significantly reduce their offer.
The tourism analysis firm ForwardKeys estimates that, on transatlantic flights alone, at least 3.3 million seats are being eliminated.
Zaher says many of the new bookings are from customers in emergency situations who cannot find seats on commercial flights or are unwilling to take risks.
– Bookings up –
Recently, a lady booked a private flight to cross the United States with her elderly mother who was on oxygen.
“They found it necessary to pay more to avoid traveling on a commercial flight,” in these uncertain times, said Zaher.
The price of a private jet varies depending on the type of aircraft, the region, the number of passengers and the duration of the flight.
A round trip on a jet with 12 seats between London and New York is around 150,000 dollars (138,0000 euros) and a one-way trip between Hong Kong and Japan costs 71,000 dollars (65,000 euros).
But booking a flight on a 13-seat plane to go from the United Kingdom to the south of France can amount to just over 10,000 dollars (9,180 euros).
In Asia, where the epidemic has appeared, jet rental companies have noted an increase in new customers over the past two months.
Those who fled the epidemic in January returned home in March, fleeing the countries now hit by the Covid-19 epidemic.
Commercial flights to and from China have dropped 90% in the past two months.
A spokesperson for Air Charter Service in Hong Kong told AFP that its company had recorded a 70% increase in firm bookings from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing in January and February, and an increase of 170 % of new customers over the same period.
– Formalities away from the crowd –
“These are people who are rich enough but who do not necessarily charter. They may do so on an exceptional basis,” said James Royds-Jones, director of Air Charter Service business jets for Asia Pacific.
Recently, a family called on their company to move from Hong Kong to the city of Chiang Mai in Thailand.
“People try to put almost their entire house on a private jet,” he said, noting that this luxury mode of transportation keeps “your pets with you”.
Daniel Tang of Hong Kong-based MayJets says he has had five times more inquiries than normal and three times more reservations since the start of the epidemic.
Customers have notably opted for jets so as not to be confined with hundreds of other passengers of whom they know nothing about the travel history.
Another major advantage of private planes: customs and immigration formalities are done away from crowded terminals at major airports.
“These two privileges are precious in this time of uncertainty,” he said.
However, Mr. Tang fears that the increasingly restrictive travel conditions over the days due to the measures taken to combat the spread of the epidemic will also affect this mode of travel.
“As more and more countries tighten border measures, it will be more and more difficult to fly, even private jets,” he feared.