Corporate travel levels are still significantly flagging and commercial airlines are facing unprecedented challenges restructuring their businesses to adapt to new environment. Over three months ago, Corporate Travel Community (CTC) explored that with travel restrictions blunting commercial schedules whether private aircraft really are a solution to deliver a safe business traveller journey or if they simply had a short window of opportunity to support an industry in crisis?
At that stage, in those difficult days of the pandemic, there were a number of businesses that had been continuing to use private aircraft for their top level staff, ensuring they can travel to important face to face meetings while the pandemic was very widespread.
There are clearly a number of reasons why taking a private aircraft makes good business sense. None more so than a study that found transiting a commercial passenger terminal and flying a commercial airline created around 270 possible person-to-person interactions where you can be exposed to Covid-19. That compares to less than 20 when taking a private flight. You can’t argue with that and can add convenience, flexibility and efficiency to the equation too.
Private aviation certainly is a possibility for some companies with a good cash flow and a need to get in front of clients. Zoom and Skype will have their uses but human interaction is still wanted and remains an essential part of the business formula, albeit a touchless experience that is completed from a safe social distance and wearing a mask.
But the huge price of flying private remained a major weight on the other side of the balance. Could private aviation be something that could see a continued uptick as commercial aviation continues to stumble along without a clear biosecurity path to follow? We didn’t necessarily felt that would be the case and predicted that private aviation may only have a short window until commercial aviation steadies the ship.
But just like at the Covid-19 pandemic’s outset we didn’t fully expect such longevity of the crisis and that means that window is certainly much larger than first expected. While business travel remains subdued there is the suggestion that private aviation will have a larger market to play not just now, but also in the future. Not necessarily great news for airlines, but a big influence on global economies.
“A combination of new users to private aviation and steady, continued usage from existing users will offset an overall drop in business travel between now and the Christmas holiday season,” believes Doug Gollan, founder and editor-in-chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons.
What’s more, a recent survey of subscribers to the buyer’s guide that compares private aviation membership options shows that at least half of new users are planning to continue using private aviation after the Covid-19 pandemic is over. As an example, one respondent noted that private travel “was always more a curiosity than a reality until Covid-19, but now flying private is the only way we travel,” while another commented, “I never used private aviation before Covid… now I will not fly commercial.”
Sentiment for business travel remains subdued, but the survey found that 90% of new and existing private aviation users are expecting to travel by private jet this autumn with more than half (51%) planning to increase their use of private aviation and almost a third (31%) reporting their companies are expanding usage of private aviation services. Almost three quarters (72%) said they were flying privately to reduce possible exposure to Covid-19.
Interestingly, among the companies expanding private jet access for business travel, 92% said they were expanding the type of trips for which private aviation is being used, with 28% saying their companies are expanding the number of employees who can use private aviation.
It is obvious that affordability will remain a big issue, but with Covid-19 remaining a threat and expected to remain a danger long into 2021, private aviation continues to remain a viable option but mainly for just a small niche of corporate users. However, that is a niche that appears to be getting a little larger the longer this crisis continues.