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Private Jet Travel Stays Strong as Commercial Flights Rebound

High retention rates show private aviation gaining ground, even as Covid concerns relax

March 23, 2021

Private aviation is showing its chops as a top performer in the travel and tourism segment and may be well-positioned to keep its momentum in a post-COVID world, according to recent surveys.

A flash poll of subscribers run by Private Jet Card Comparisons found nearly 30 percent have considered switching some commercial airline route needs to private aircraft amidst domestic terror threats as well as the ongoing Covid surge concerns.

The research also found despite the COVID-19 testing requirements for anyone entering the U.S., more than two-thirds expect to travel internationally.

What’s more, 96% of respondents who had started or restarted flying privately due to the coronavirus say they plan to continue after the pandemic subsides.

Responses, according to the survey, were evenly split between subscribers who had been using private aviation before the pandemic and those who had started or restarted, seeking to minimize COVID-19 exposure. Previous research shows fewer than 20 physical touch points when using a private jet compared to over 700 with the airlines.

Private Aviation: No Going Back

Over four in 10 respondents (41 percent) who are newbies said they would continue to fly privately “regularly” after the pandemic is over. A further 55 percent said they would use private aviation “once in a while after the pandemic is over.” Only 4 percent expect to stop private flights.

“The results show private aviation should expect a significant net gain in customers and flying post-pandemic,” said Doug Gollan, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons. “New private aviation users were very clear that once they started flying privately, they came to understand the broad benefits.”

A McKinsey analysis last year estimated there were only around 100,000 regular private aviation users in the U.S., although 1.5 million affluent households have the means. Private air charters are back to 90 percent of pre-COVID levels, largely driven by new users.

Of subscribers who were flying privately prior to the pandemic, 38 percent said they will likely increase the percentage of their flights using private aviation after the pandemic is over, with 55 percent saying usage will be similar to before COVID-19.

Several respondents noted their skepticism about cleaning and social distancing procedures currently in place by the airlines. Others added that decreased airline schedules mean much longer travel times and more problematic connections.

Other key findings:

– 68 percent said they won’t change their mix of flights using private aviation and the airlines

– 16 percent may switch some flights to private aviation instead of using the airlines

– 16 percent say if there are continued incidents, unrest, or attacks (such as the world witnessed on January 6), they may switch flights from the airlines to private aviation

Regarding the impact of CDC Covid-19 testing requirements for all flyers, including private jet travelers:

– 31 percent said they would travel outside the US if they were able to have the confidence of getting tested locally before returning

– 28 percent said the requirements make it less they will travel outside the US

– 25 percent who plan to travel outside the US said testing requirements had no impact on their plans

– 16 percent said they are likely to travel outside the US if the hotel/resort provides testing on-property

Private Jet Traveler Profile

In terms of private aviation solutions, 83 percent of Private Jet Card Comparisons subscribers use jet cards (a private aviation product that enabling holders the flexibility to use different aircraft at agreed-upon fixed hourly rates. These are offered by large and small fleet operators and charter brokers, thus, the demand for a policy comparison service), 32 percent charter on a trip-by-trip basis, 12 percent catch rides on friends’ private jets, 6 percent have fractional shares, 4 percent own their own private jets, and 1 percent fly on private aircraft for companies they work for, but don’t own. Many subscribers manage multiple solutions.

Only 1 percent say they use semi-private services where they can split costs or buy single seats. Some 3 percent said they haven’t flown privately yet, but are looking at options, while under 1 percent said they haven’t flown privately in the past 24 months and don’t expect to fly privately in the next year.

Of subscribers who bought or renewed a jet card that included a deposit within the past 18 months, the average deposit was $211,607. Additionally, 6 percent purchased pay-as-you-go jet cards and memberships where they paid a joining fee but didn’t have to wire any funds to keep on the account.

For jet card users, 61 percent said it was the first time they bought a jet card from that provider, 40 percent renewed with an existing provider, and 26 percent said they didn’t need to buy additional hours. Numbers add up to more than 100 percent as some users bought jet cards from multiple providers. About 1 in 5 (19 percent) reported switching providers.