Pets Of The Super Rich Take To The Skies As Private Jets Rebound
The private jet industry is benefiting from coronavirus as the super rich become desperate to escape lockdown restrictions, and in some cases, reunite with their pets.
Coronavirus travel restrictions are still in place for people, but not for animals. That allowed one British family stuck in Switzerland to fly their six month-old labrador puppy to them from London. In a private jet.
“They missed being away from it whilst it was in their Belgravia home with seven staff,” says Charles Robinson, founder of JustJet, which organised the reunion.
The trip involved a Phenom 300 eight-seater jet and dog handling teams at both London and St Moritz airports, plus a stop for pet clearance in Zurich. In total the trip cost around £10,000 ($12,720).
“The owners then greeted their four legged friend on the tarmac at St Moritz airport and headed home to their alpine retreat,” adds Robinson.
It is short hops like these where private jets are really taking off, according to data from WingX which tacks business aviation. “Very light” and “entry level” flights are only 20% down from the same period last year, compared with 60% for ultra-long range and heavy jets and 90% for commercial airlines.
In this fashion, private jets could actually benefit from coronavirus. Before Europe went into lockdown jet companies were in high demand helping clients circumvent cancelled commercial routes in their race to get home.
Demand dropped dramatically in early April. Though some charter companies were still employed for medical evacuation and repatriation flights, three quarters of jets were grounded according to WingX.
This had the inevitable knock-on effects for the wider aviation industry. Private jet manufacturers, including Bombardier and Textron, suspended operations and cut staff. Handling companies, brokers and crew were similarly effected with thousands out of work.
Private Jet Virgins Take To The Skies
But now that lockdown measures are being rolled back, private jets are taking to the skies again. This is in part driven by a newly nervous clientele seeking to circumvent crowded airports and shared cabin space. (Private jet charter company GlobeAir estimates the Covid-19 risk is 30 times lower on a chartered aircraft than a commercial one.)
Charter companies are eyeing up these private jet virgins as lucrative new customers that could help them benefit from the pandemic. Private jet charter company Fly Victor reports a 90% increase in requests for flights in Europe and the Middle East, with many coming from new customers. It expects further bookings in the coming weeks and months as more European borders open.
One U.K. family, who have never before “flown private,” have just booked a return charter flight for a holiday in Greece at a cost of around $40,000 (they did not want to give an exact figure, or their names). The holiday was booked before coronavirus but they no longer want to take their scheduled flight, citing fears of “germs onboard commercial airlines.”
Some holiday resorts are offering private jets as part of their packages. La Reserva Club Sotogrande in Spain is offering a “Private Jet Package” to coax guests to its high-end golf resort, which has now reopened.
Take off Scheduled For July
July is set to be the busiest month yet, says Richard Koe, managing director of WingX: “Operators are reportedly seeing strong bookings for July by which point many more restrictions will be lifted.”
Crucially, by July the U.K.’s two-week quarantine rule should no longer apply. Currently, anybody entering the U.K. has to quarantine themselves for two weeks.
This led to a flurry of private jetting ahead of its implementation (including reports of Elon Musk’s private jet flying into London), but now all activity is likely to be subdued until the rule is relaxed at the end of the month.
In the meantime, private jet companies are readying themselves for what could be a bumper summer. Some are also hoping there are some more stranded dogs that need to be reunited with their owners.