Vaccination programmes are well underway across many countries, and with each passing day, we approach closer to life that bears similarity to what it was like before the onset of the global pandemic. When news broke out about the growing number of Covid-19 cases, governments were prompt on shutting down their borders to prevent any further spread of the virus. It is a global effort that all countries participated in to protect their citizens and in exchange, our freedom to travel was forsaken.
We have crossed the one-year mark since any scheduled aircraft operations were conducted and according to an article by the Financial Times, “[commercial air travels] were down 50 per cent by February 23 compared with the same period in 2020 — the last time flying was normal.” While commercial flights were grounded, private aviation only experienced an 11% drop with the largest dip stemming from Europe as compared to North America. As a result, many commercial airlines were forced to declare bankruptcy and their employees had to be made redundant or quit their jobs due to the lack of flights available. On the other hand, private flights boomed because of the convenience this mode of travel can provide for its passengers.
In America alone, sales of pre-owned private jets account for more than 70% of the global market and in 2020, 1,637 jets were sold and this figure represented a 10% increase. Globally, the sector saw a 7.7% rise in its sales which amounts to over US$14.5 billion, showing that those part of the upper echelons are more than willing to pay for their “lost” freedom.
The appeal for private charted flights is obvious. At the top of the list would be safety because there are fewer than 700 touchpoints and person-to-person interactions; hence, exposure to the Covid-19 virus is kept to a minimum. Another reason is the availability of infrequent routes that have been cut short by commercial airlines because these destinations are not economically viable if they were to be retained. This opens up a market for private jet companies to fill in as its very nature is to cater to the demands of its passengers, therefore slowly replacing commercial airlines in providing this specialised service.
“The sale of preowned private aircraft has held up well because the benefits of flying privately have been clearly illustrated during the coronavirus crisis,” said Oliver Stone, the managing director of Colibri Aircraft.
In an interview with the Straits Times, the director of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) stated that personal travel will probably resume by the second half of 2021, “We will likely start seeing a change in the air travel landscape after May or June this year.” Even before this statement was published, the general public was already experiencing a serious case of cabin fever, but not everyone has the privilege and monetary capabilities to act upon their desire to travel. Even so, there is still a growing appetite for private travel in spite of the the higher costs because the peace of mind that accompanies this mode of travel is an experience that rarely comes by and this is what has enticed many potential passengers to complete their purchase.
Despite the rise in demand for private travel, could all this just be a fad? The adverse impact of using private jets are well-known such as its sustainability and environmental problems. A report by the Global Environmental Change revealed that “private air travel is the most energy-intense form of flight”. Private jets usually have a smaller passenger size and this makes it difficult for any feasible justifications to be accepted due to the high carbon costs.
As even more attention is given to the issues associated with the environment, immense pressure will no doubt be placed on these private jet companies and their manufacturers. However, this has not deterred potential passengers and these companies have all taken steps to address any concerns. One such company is Bombardier, which has committed to be carbon-neutral by 2050 and a keen advocator of sustainable aviation fuels since 2017. The company has made sustainability to be one of its core missions and spare no effort in innovating new forms techonology to meet its abovementioned goals. Being a market-leader, Bombardier is also slowly changing the perception of the private jet industry to one that is more environmentally friendly.
Where the most of us are bounded to the ground, the rise of private aviation can be seen as a collective desire to explore freely again. For a large part of us who are living comfortably, the thought of travelling came almost naturally, we could just purchase an air ticket and off we go but the pandemic has turned it all upside down for us. We are reminded that the ability to travel is always a privilege.
If you are done with this article, head over to read what we have predicted to be the travel trends for 2021.
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