How travellers are using private jets to avoid coronavirus exposure

Mar 11, 2020

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People are taking many different approaches to travelling during the coronavirus outbreak. Some are postponing or cancelling trips, some are taking extra steps to disinfect their aeroplane seats and hotel rooms and some aren’t doing anything different. And then there are those who are turning to private jets to avoid exposure.

Private jet operators are seeing a dramatic rise in demand as fears surrounding the coronavirus grow. While initial inquiries were focused on evacuations from affected areas, the increase in demand can be seen around the world as cautious travellers seek ways to avoid commercial airport terminals and pressurized aircraft cabins and cover for cancelled flights.

“Unsurprisingly, we have witnessed a substantial increase in the demand for private aviation — both from new members of XO and current members — during this sensitive time triggered by the coronavirus”, Ron Silverman, Chief Commercial Officer of California-based on-demand private jet charter company XO told us. “We expect demand to continue to grow as the situation remains unsettled, and we are committed to meeting these requests”.

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This increase in demand can be seen across the world. A spokesperson of XO’s Malta-based sister company VistaJet shared with TPG, “While we cannot assume the exact reason for flying, VistaJet has made a strong start to 2020 despite the unique set of challenges posed by COVID-19. Early figures from January and February 2020 highlight that VistaJet’s total number of flights increased by a further 16% YOY and the company continues to see strong demand across all regions”.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
A seat aboard a private Bombardier CRJ-200 (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

And it’s not just the rich and famous that are looking to protect themselves by flying private. Companies in the affordable semi-private jet space — think of it as the Uber Pool of private aviation — are seeing an increase in demand from everyday travellers as well.

Related: These private jet players want to make luxury flying more affordable

Angela Vargo, Vice President of Marketing of regional airline company JSX, shared with TPG, “We took a quick look at sales and they are definitely on the rise in the past week. While we can’t pinpoint with certainty that it is in relation to coronavirus concerns, JSX is likely a more viable travel option right now since people may fear crowded airports and sitting on planes with hundreds of people for a long period of time”.

Companies like JSX offer the convenience of flying out of private terminals at prices similar to commercial travel, but you may need to share your flight with a small group of other passengers in return.

A JSX Embraer 145. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With a rise of chartered jets hitting the skies, everyday travellers can also expect more empty-leg specials. These are heavily discounted flights when a jet operator needs to reposition aircraft for a paying customer. They are often offered on short notice and on limited routes, but can save you serious cash. If it’s just congested airport terminals you’re concerned about, it could make sense to shell out on a private commercial airport terminal experience like PS at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), PremiAir at Manchester Airport (MAN) or the Fattal Lounge at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV).

If private-jet travel or a private airport terminal is not an option, keep in mind that there are other ways that you could protect yourself from the virus while travelling. If you don’t already, you can reduce human contact by using a mobile boarding pass, as opposed to a paper one. Then, once onboard, take time to disinfect your seat before settling in. Most airlines also have flight waivers in place that allow for free changes or cancellations. Read our complete coverage of the outbreak here.

Featured image by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

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