Private air transport is thriving under the pandemic.
In fact, the interest is so high that many private jet companies have a different problem on their hands: meeting demand.
Private aviation company VistaJet said new memberships for the first half of 2021 were up 53% from 2020, with Europe attracting the most new members (51%) during this period.
“It’s no surprise that searches for ‘charter travel’ have increased 520% in the past 12 months,” said Naveen Dittakavi, CEO of the Next Vacay flights website. take a private plane “have increased by 1,100% in the last 12 months worldwide.”
Most people who can afford to travel privately don’t, said Gregg Brunson-Pitts, founder of Advanced Aviation Team, a Virginia-based private jet brokerage. The pandemic has caused some of these people to book private jets, many for the very first time.
“People (…) have come off the sidelines,” he said. “It wasn’t just the rich people with the means – the governments were using them. They were a means of moving supplies, so our business picked up pretty quickly even during the shutdown.”
When asked who is considered a person capable of affording private travel, Gregg Brunson-Pitts replied “maybe someone with a net worth of $ 5 million or more”.
Flash pop | Stone | Getty Images
Brunson-Pitts, who was the director of the White House travel office during President George W. Bush’s second term, admitted that the prices of charter jets are not as transparent as commercial flights. But there are reasons for this, he says.
Unlike a commercial airline – where passengers travel on the same plane at the same time and on the same date – charter jets vary widely in size and service (none vs. “VIP catering and flight attendants”), a said Brunson-Pitts. Due to growing demand, flexibility over travel dates also affects prices, he said.
As such, a flight for a family of four from New York to Washington, DC, could easily range from $ 10,000 to $ 50,000, he said, depending on customer needs.
To get a broader idea of prices, CNBC spoke to newly converted private travelers about how much they paid for their first flights during the pandemic.
“Struggled for years with the costs”
name: Jarrett Preston
Job: CEO of the international asset trading company Idoneus
Preston said he was “a very casual private aviator” before the pandemic.
“I struggled for years with the costs and benefits of private travel,” Preston said. “As the global pandemic was in full swing and flights were drastically reduced or diverted, the lines got longer. [and] incidents of violence on planes increased, I decided that private plane travel was necessary. “
Jarrett Preston said he flew privately for three reasons: safety, security and efficiency.
Courtesy of Jarrett Preston
He paid around $ 10,500 to fly from Tampa to Miami and return with the Florida-based Monarch Air Group charter service.
“Beyond the incalculable time savings, my safety and that of my family and my team come first,” he said. “It was one of the best professional and personal decisions I have made.”
Security, privacy and comfort
name: Ahmad Sahroni
Job: Businessman and politician
As a member of the People’s Representative Council, one of the two elected bodies of Indonesia’s legislative branch, Sahroni said he had started flying in private for “safety, privacy and convenience.”
Ahmad Sahroni, an Indonesian politician, said confidentiality is one of the main reasons he started traveling by private jet.
Courtesy of Ahmad Sahroni
He paid around $ 36,000 for his first flight with the Indonesian airline CeoJetset. He flew from Bali to Jakarta, the capital of the country.
“As a very mobile person, time efficiency is also the key factor,” he said.
As to whether he plans to continue flying in private after the pandemic is over: “Yes, definitely.”
“Eliminate all the stress”
name: Steven Sadaka
Job: CEO of the executive search firm StevenDouglas
Sadaka often departs from Miami International Airport.
“It is very stressful going through such a large international airport. There are endless lines through security, and you are treated like a number,” he said. “It has always been a pain point for me, but I have never been able to justify [spending] $ 6,000 an hour for a charter jet. “
Steven Sadaka said when the pandemic started he and his family were no longer comfortable traveling to airports or on commercial flights.
Courtesy of Steven Sadaka
The company he now flies with, Jet It, costs about $ 1,600 an hour, he said. He paid $ 8,000 for a return flight from Boca Raton, Florida to Teterboro, New Jersey for his first flight.
Sadaka said private jet travel “takes all the stress out of the trip.” Now, he said, he won’t come back.
“I can arrive five minutes before takeoff, a car is waiting at the destination and I don’t have to worry about cancellations,” he said. “I can travel on my schedule, even if it changes.”
name: Derrick L. Miles
Job: Founder and CEO of healthcare technology company CourMed
Miles made the switch for two reasons: time saving and Covid-19 safety.
“Travel delays, long lines can all have a negative impact on our organization’s ability to accomplish more every day,” he said. “Time is money.”
Derrick Miles said avoiding crowds at the airport during the pandemic motivated him to change his flying habits.
Derrick Miles, jet
He now flies with JSX, a Dallas-based service that operates 30-seat jets in the United States. On his first flight, he paid $ 1,200 for a return flight from Dallas to Miami.
“While JSX does not operate a true charter service, I personally prefer its ‘hop on’ jet service,” said Miles. “They have predefined flights to go to certain destinations, and I can travel for less.”
The biggest advantage, according to Miles: “getting my time back”.
“I don’t have to go to the private hangar until 20 to 30 minutes before departure,” he said. “In addition, the JSX car park is approximately 20 meters from the facility. As a result, I save time and can focus on the liquidity, profitability and growth of the business.
The most private of all
name: Brandon ham
Job: Investment manager in the financial sector
It’s not in a jet, but Ham flies in the most private way possible – he flies his own plane.
He started taking flight lessons just before the pandemic started, he said. In September, he bought a Cirrus SR22 single-engine piston aircraft.
Brandon Ham and his girlfriend, Kirsten Opsahl, in front of a 2021 Cirrus SR22T, which Ham says is “almost identical” to the plane he is building.
Courtesy of Brandon Jambon
He declined to share the cost of the plane, but said the certified planes hit “seven figures quickly” while the new jets cost “several millions.” He said it is much more expensive to own and fly your own aircraft than to fly commercially in first-class seats. Still, chartering a jet with a professional pilot is even more expensive, he said.
“The purchase price only tells part of the story,” he said. “Operation and maintenance costs are a huge expense with all airplanes, with jets typically costing thousands of dollars per hour to operate.”
The biggest aspect of aircraft ownership is flexibility, which surpasses even charter services, Ham said.
“If you feel like sleeping, you can. If you’re wondering if you have time to finish your round of golf or take another downhill ride, you can,” he said.
But there are also downsides.
“Cost is surely one of them, and the fact that the plane does not have a bathroom, nor a catering service… my plane will also fly much slower than a commercial jet,” he said. Ham said.
However, time is saved “on the ground,” he said, adding that door to door, from his apartment in Chicago to his sister’s house in Nashville, he is faster to fly his own plane.
Ham did not fly privately until he became a pilot, he said, adding that he would continue to fly commercially, especially to travel overseas.