March 23, 2020, © Leeham News: There were times last week when the number of private airplanes in the air seemed to outnumber the airliners.
Periodic checks on FlightRadar24 of the skies around Seattle showed a dearth of commercial flights. By Friday, the US carriers already sharply pulled down operations. International flights were largely canceled.
Most cutbacks are likely.
With passenger traffic all but dried up—some flights had load factors of 20%-30% and others only one or two passengers—how might people get around while minimizing exposure to the coronavirus?
The private, general aviation airplanes are one choice.
Using corporate jets is another. But this option isn’t inexpensive, even when consolidating passengers.
There has been a jump in usage of business jets. Initially, evacuations from Asia spiked demand by those who could afford it.
The Guardian newspaper cited early demand of the wealthy or companies chartering biz jets to evacuate families or employees from Southeast Asia.
At a time where some Americans caught overseas are still trying to get home, most can’t afford to charter a biz jet or even buy a seat on one.
Lidor Revah is CEO of Imperium Jets, a company that acts as a consolidator/arranger of biz jet flights. At my request, he provided these sample costs to charter or obtain a seat on routes in Europe, the US and in Asia. The prices are per six passengers.
Imperium is one of many companies arranging biz jet flights. Imperium works with travel agencies and brokers. It can respond to inquiries within two hours and handle all the backend work, quotes and arrange payments.
“We see more and more that travel agents have nothing to sell,” Revah says.
How does Imperium ensure that exposure to the virus will be minimized?
Revah says that operators send a form with any quote detailing potential exposure. The chartered jets either won’t fly into an infected area or the crew will take “extreme precautions.”
The flight crew won’t leave the aircraft.
Imperium says the main demand is from the US. It has 12,630 aircraft jets and turboprops in its data base with 2,600 operators. It’s adding cargo aircraft operators, from turboprops to Boeing 747s. Thirty travel agencies became clients since January, Revah says.
There continues to be concern that Europe and the US may close the skies to passenger airline service. Cargo flights will likely be allowed in this event, and Revah believes private and biz jet operations will continue.
Despite the spike in traffic, news emerged Friday that the biz-jet industry asked for US federal aid.
CNBC reported that “The National Business Aviation Association, or NBAA, which represents private-jet companies and corporate jets, sent a joint letter with other industry groups to congressional leaders saying the industry is facing “increasing financial uncertainty” and that private-jet companies should be included in any airline or aviation bailout.” The NBAA cited a broader threat: the virus “threatens the survival and prospects of thousands of general aviation businesses,” the letter stated.
A bailout for an industry that largely serves the rich is likely to meet fierce resistance in Congress.