The Covid-19 pandemic has infected every corner of the globe and has hit the most advanced economies in the world harder than anything in living memory. The private jet industry has not been spared and is suffering from a near-total shutdown in travel.
Following an initial surge in demand, Vimana Private Jets has found its regular demand drop significantly. In response, it is adapting its business model to aid the battle against the novel coronavirus wherever it can. The company is flying medical supplies where they are needed most and is repatriating citizens on behalf of governments. It has also committed to donating 1% from two months of net profits to the NHS.
The CEO Ameerh Naran speaks to Elite Traveler about what short-term impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had on private aviation and predicts how it might change the industry in the long-term. Naran also speaks about the importance of social responsibility and how the private aviation industry can play a positive role in a post-pandemic world.
What short-term impacts has the Covid-19 pandemic had on Vimana Private Jets?
“In the short term, we saw a huge upsurge in demand in February and March as commercial travel restrictions took hold. Passenger travel has taken a huge downturn over the past week as many of our clients have relocated to wherever they would like to spend their lockdown and we are seeing a massive spike in cargo requests for the transport of medical equipment.
“Usually, we only work with a very select list of approved clients who are regular flyers and use us exclusively. Given the unparalleled level of service we offer our clients, Vimana Private Jets does not, as a rule, take on many new clients for ad hoc requests as our company policy is to have a high level of staff to clients at all times.
“Our rigorous broker training program limits the number of new clients we are able to take on board as I personally train each broker and it can take up to six months before I am confident they are ready to work with clients.
“Since the start of this epidemic, we have been experiencing very high demand for private charters from new clients and are accommodating all, given the situation. As a socially conscious company, we are mindful of the need to meet this exceptional demand and so we are not turning away any new request as we are often now the only hope in clients seeing their loved ones for what could be the last time.
“This means our operations teams are flat out 24/7 and we are taking on far more clients than we would normally want to. We are especially proud to be part of a collective solution with embassies in the repatriation of citizens worldwide, to return people stranded overseas safely home.
“Due to a chronic shortage of commercial cargo aircraft, Vimana Private Jets has also been meeting daily demand for medical cargo transporting medical equipment and supplies to many developing countries in particular. Our long-standing relationships with Civil Aviation Authorities and airports have been especially useful in getting things moving quickly. We have successfully delivered to countries desperate for these supplies. With our highly trained teams working across four continents, we can respond very quickly and efficiently to every urgent request.
“We have also continued to work hard with our loyal clients to find the best solution to their travel needs in this climate. Ultra-high-net-worth-individuals support thousands of employees and they need to continue ‘business as usual’ which usually involves many hours in the air. We have found solutions wherever possible but ultimately their ability to travel to offices or even remote regions to oversee their assets has been impaired as containment measures continue. As restrictions ease over time, our priority will be to get our loyal clients back in the air with the same exceptional flying experience they have come to expect from Vimana Private Jets.”
And what long-term impacts do you predict it will have?
“The spread of Covid-19 and response by the aviation industry has resulted in an unprecedented decline in global air traffic. Commercial flights decreased 55% in the final week of March 2020 compared to 2019. I expect this trend to continue as airlines remove additional flights from their schedules. Airport revenues have disappeared as they are largely deserted, and some governments are stepping in with support packages, but this cannot be sustainable long-term.
“The impact on employment is deeply worrying. IATA’s latest analysis shows that 25 million jobs are at risk of disappearing with plummeting demand for air travel amid the crisis. The future of many commercial airlines is in the balance and many cannot survive the crisis. Many are adapting their services to switch to freight to build revenue, others may limp through depending on government support.
“The private aviation industry in contrast has experienced a peak in demand due to the near-total shutdown of commercial aviation. At the beginning of the crisis, there was an upsurge in demand of circa 25% as commercial routes literally fell away and private jets largely bypassed many of the travel restrictions in place. Whilst this initial spike in inquiries has passed as government measures introduced the quarantine of visitors, I believe there will be a long-term increase as travelers seek the added safety and security that private aviation offers.
“When the time comes for countries such as the USA and the Asia-Pacific region to return to business as usual, there will be another surge in activity as clients are anxious to secure their business interests and others want to resume their travel plans. They will be acutely aware of the risks of contagion in crowded environments, will want to avoid crowded airports and traveling on large aircraft with circa 350+ people, and that awareness will likely outlast the pandemic.
Vimana Private Jets has grown rapidly. Is the company in a strong position to handle a market downturn if one occurs as expected?
“Vimana Private Jets has a very loyal client base with most clients flying with us exclusively. Our clients include heads of state, governments, corporations and UNHWIs, with highly challenging roles and commitments. Most clients have their own complex travel requirements; they often need to travel without notice, with the best security, exceptional service and value on offer. Vimana is uniquely positioned to meet every request and our clients trust us to provide the most comprehensive solutions on offer.
“Since inception, we have built up an impressive network with access to over 5,000 aircraft worldwide and now have offices globally with specialist charter teams available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to attend to every client’s needs. Today, Vimana Private Jets offers the most exceptional private aviation experience on the market. They simply cannot get the same offering from commercial airlines or many other providers, and I have no doubt they will continue to fly with us.
The world will change after the pandemic, economically and socially. What can the private aviation industry do to ensure it has a positive role to play?
“There is no debate about whether flying privately is more productive. You control when, where and with whom you fly. You skip the check-ins, connections, baggage handling and delays that can make flying so time-consuming. You replace those issues with more meetings, more time with clients and more sales. Will this change? For our clients there will be even more need to travel with speed to ensure productivity, and charter operators will be more mindful of safety of clients as the impact of such a global contagion will not be lost on clients seeking an even safer way to travel.
“For economic and social reasons, of course there is a need to quantify the environmental impact of business aviation operations at all stages of the service chain, from aircraft manufacture to disposal, and identify how best to improve the sector’s environmental performance and help it adjust. Vimana Private Jets will be at the forefront of such changes.”
What has inspired you to use the company’s resources to help the situation?
“Vimana Private Jets has always been a socially responsible company. Many of our clients are philanthropists and influencers and we mirror their passion to support the global effort to fight this contagion. We have dedicated and adapted our resources to help governments and individuals globally whether it be the repatriation of citizens, distributing vital medical equipment and supplies wherever it is needed. Vimana Private Jets is fortunate to have the network, diplomatic contacts and operational ability to meet these challenges and is very proud to be part of the global effort.”
And how long do you expect the company to be delivering essential equipment to where it is needed?
“Vimana Private Jets will continue to assist with the deployment of essential equipment whenever it is needed, wherever it is needed until this terrible crisis is over.”