When one door closes, a private jet door may open. While commercial airlines have suffered economic hardship at the hands of COVID-19, private aviation companies have reported an influx of new clients, according to Forbes. The surface reasons may be obvious—fewer passengers, no crowded airport terminals, more prestige—but the trend also highlights an untapped market that could benefit planners far into the future, especially as it becomes more accessible.
Here’s what you need to know about best practices, trends and planning a private jet excursion for groups.
Safety Above and Beyond
These days, safety and reassurance in travel comes at a premium. A study conducted by Austrian-based jet operator GlobeAir in March reported a 30-times lower risk of contagion when using business, or private, aviation. The study identified 700 touchpoints which could expose passengers on commercial flights and only 20 that would expose passengers on more private flights.
Smart Meetings consulted former White House Travel Director Gregg Brunson-Pitts, CEO and founder of Advanced Aviation Team, an on-demand private charter brokerage in Washington, DC, for more information regarding sanitation and crew procedures aboard private jets.
“Crews are wearing masks and adhering to social distancing rules. Surfaces are sanitized frequently, and we offer aircrafts with HEPA filters and air ionization,” he said. “If requested, crew and passengers can also get tested for COVID-19 prior to departure.”
The Abbott Lab’s $5, fifteen-minute rapid COVID-19 test “is a game changer,” Brunson-Pitts said. “It can open up new options for group travel and assist in getting closer to a vaccine. With affordable rapid tests like this, we can create safe travel bubbles for a wider audience.”
The same CDC guidelines apply to both commercial and private aviation, but, like the above testing upon request, many private charter companies are going above and beyond. According to Private Jet Card Comparisons, Wheels Up, which owns Delta Private Jets, treats its fleet with ClearCabin—an anti-bacterial solution used by hospitals—in addition to regular cleanings. Fractional private jet company Flexjet launched an app for pilots to report their temperatures three times daily; and ExpertJet offers upgrade options that range from advanced cleaning to renewed snacks and drinks ($500) to a 48-hour quarantine for the flight crew ($4,000).
Delta markets its corporate membership options as ideal for exclusive executive retreats during COVID-19. The company promotes the idea of “democratizing” private aviation, making it more accessible just when more companies are looking for commercial flight alternatives.
“Flying privately offers a bubble where you come in contact with significantly less people. The traveler picks the destination, times of departure, and other passengers for a fully customizable experience,” Brunson-Pitts said.
Accessible Airfare Options
Many may think private travel is for the rich and famous, but COVID-19 has changed that. According to Forbes, only 10 percent of people who can afford private use it as means of travel. Travel Weekly reported a surge in first-time users in the charter jet industry, indicating that the pandemic has been a catalyst for more widespread use, including among business and corporate flyers.
Brunson-Pitts has seen similar trends. “We noticed a significant initial bump in family travel starting in March. Many are transporting high-risk family members,” he said. “Private travel isn’t back at pre-COVID levels, but it’s slowly increasing as travelers decide they’re comfortable.”
With the rising popularity of jet cards (which allows passengers to pay as they use the hours after an initial membership fee) and fractional ownership (which requires a longer commitment and is optimized for frequent fliers, but offers more flexibility and control in many situations) private aviation options are becoming more accessible and varied for groups.
VIP Chopper Tours
Another way to keep your attendees above the clouds is to book helicopter tour experiences. Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters offers boutique dining at Mott 32 at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas and a night flights above The Las Vegas Strip packages, complete with limousine transfers.
Similarly, Lip Smacking Foodie Tours offers VIP Savory Bites and Neon Lights experiences that include stops at four top Vegas restaurants followed by a helicopter tour of The Strip. The experience lasts five hours, but the memories will live on.