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December 1, 2020updated Jan 04, 2021

How Covid-19 is Changing the way we Travel

The nature of private jet customers is changing as demand shifts away from business travel towards leisure.

By Katharine Swindells

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused noticeable changes in the demographics and demands of private jet customers. While the private jet industry as a whole is recovering much more quickly than commercial airlines, the nature of their business is changing as demand shifts away from business travel towards leisure.

Since April, private jet charter broker Private Fly has seen a noticeable increase in children and young people on flights, with under 16s making up a fifth of passengers in the third quarter of 2020. In the same quarter, 7% of flights had pets on them, compared to 3% in the same months of 2019. 

Since April, private jet charter broker Private Fly has seen a noticeable increase in children and young people on flights, with under 16s making up a fifth of passengers in the third quarter of 2020. In the same quarter, 7% of flights had pets on them, compared to 3% in the same months of 2019. 

NetJets, which makes up about one in seven private jet takeoffs/landings in the US every day, say that prior to the pandemic, 60% of its flights were leisure, and 40% business. Now, however, that balance has shifted to 80/20 respectively.

“Leisure flying has eclipsed its pre-pandemic levels thanks to new entrants who were previously flying commercial or with competitors, but have come to realize that the ultimate luxury is peace of mind,” said Patrick Gallagher, president of sales, marketing and service at NetJets.

[See also: How much Does Netjets Cost?]

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That doesn’t mean business travel isn’t still an important part of the private jet industry, both now and in the future. NetJets say that while many executives are still working from home and conducting meetings remotely – and business flying remains depressed – demand started increasing in September as restrictions loosen.

NetJets says it expects that business flying may eventually increase beyond its pre-pandemic level as the commercial airline industry struggles and business travelers look for an alternative.

The pandemic has disrupted the industry in another way, too – in terms of the type of jets being chartered. In March, April and May, Private Fly saw a spike in demand for long-range and super mid-size jets, and in the second quarter these made up nearly half of all flights chartered through the company. Private Fly said that this change was down to pandemic-driven repatriation and evacuation flights, for long, transcontinental routes.

[See also: The Longest Range Private Jets]

Since June, however, it has seen an increase in demand for small and medium jets, as families and small groups charter jets for personal use, and long range trips decreased due to international travel restrictions.

There has also been a knock-on effect on the lead time of private jet bookings. In March, Private Fly saw an influx of emergency bookings, as people rushed to get themselves or loved ones home. In quarter one of 2020, 5% of Private Fly’s bookings were same-day, 18% for the following day.

Some 60% of bookings were made within a week of the travel date, compared to 51% in the same period in 2019. In 2019, over 20% of Private Fly bookings were made more than 30 days before flying. But since April, 2020 that number has more than halved, as changing restrictions make planning travel plans far in advance difficult.

[See also: How Much Does It Cost to Own a Private Jet?]

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