New York – A panel discussion on “Private aviation in a world with Covid-19” took place on 22 July 2020 with aviation industry insiders including Kevin Diemar, CEO at Unity Jets, Doug Gollan, Forbes Contributor and Editor-in-Chief at Private Jet Card and Greg Johnson, President and CTO at Tuvoli. The exclusive event was organized by Respada, a platform providing private market opportunities to the ultra-affluent.
Panelists highlighted that flying privately ensures Covid avoidance by fulfilling social distancing imperatives. Diemar noted that there are less than 30 touchpoints in private air travel as opposed to over 900 touchpoints in commercial aviation. Further, private jet passengers avoid overcrowded queues encountered in a typical public airport terminal by arriving at a Fixed Base Operator, which is an exclusive terminal for private aircrafts. Upon landing, instead of lining up for customs and border clearance, passengers will typically be escorted into a private office to have documents checked or be greeted by border agents on board the aircraft. Gollan also pointed out that given the decrease in the number of commercial flights due to the pandemic, private aircrafts help passengers travel to places with lesser connectivity. He also discussed how private aircraft services help passengers in crucial moments when they miss their connecting flights and need to reach their destinations urgently, which is often not feasible in commercial aviation.
While discussing exciting trends in private aircraft and business services, panelists noted that Covid-19 has caused a much smaller disruption on private aviation as compared to commercial airlines. Johnson observed that states like Florida and Colorado are increasingly becoming “second-home cities” for remote working, leading to these states being least impacted due to travel restrictions. Furthermore, a survey on seasoned flyers conducted by Gollan, suggested that only three per cent of respondents said they had no plans to fly again in 2020.
Private aviation is no doubt maturing. And one inevitable trend and outcome is industry consolidation. Manufacturers, charter companies and technology platforms are consolidating across all aspects of operations to seek more efficiencies.
Despite the advantages, a recent report by McKinsey & Company noted that prior to the pandemic, only 10% of those who could afford to fly privately were doing so. Private aviation comes with a price tag steeper than simply flying first or business class. Moreover, private aviation operations have evolved into a fragmented industry. Unlike the Airbnb and Uber of the mainstream sharing economy, private flight bookings still require laborious phone calls to reach sales representatives from different charter companies.
As the demand for private aviation services continues to grow amidst the pandemic, Respada has seen inquiries increase over 40% for private aircraft purchase listings in the months following Covid-19. “We are keenly exploring new channels and partnerships within private aviation,” says Rachel Xing, VP of Strategy and Partnerships at Respada. Xing adds, “There is an urgent demand and the regulations are favourable. In fact, the CARES Act passed in late March waived the 7.5% excise tax on all private jet flights in 2020.”
Respada’s CEO, John Prince, observes, “Private aviation is no doubt maturing. And one inevitable trend and outcome is industry consolidation. Manufacturers, charter companies and technology platforms are consolidating across all aspects of operations to seek more efficiencies.” Prince adds, “We are about to witness new passenger consumption patterns, industry practices, technology disintermediation and innovations that will make private aviation operate much more efficiently.”
Overall, as the aviation industry is evolving to meet the demands of Covid-19, private aviation has emerged as more than just a matter of efficiency, comfort and luxury - it is addressing vital concerns of safety and health.