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Private jet bookings spike during coronavirus crisis

Driven in part by the relatively spacious confines of
private aircraft, some private jet charter companies reported spikes in
inquiries and bookings as the Covid-19 virus began to all but halt the travel
industry during the first half of this month. The relative safety of the small
planes was a driving factor. 

“We’re seeing a huge difference in the amount of inquiries
that are coming and in the types of clients that are making requests and the
types of flights we are organizing,” Richard Zaher, CEO of Washington,
D.C.-based Paramount Business Jets, said during a mid-March interview. 

Similarly, Europe’s GlobeAir said that over three weeks in
late February and early March, it saw a 27% year-over-year increase in
bookings.

The company asserted that private jets have just 1/30th the
exposure touchpoints to the coronavirus as a typical commercial flight.

While the specifics of that figure can surely be debated,
the relatively uncrowded confines of private jets, as well as the relatively
uncrowded terminals they operate from, inarguably add to their appeal during a
time when the White House has advised against gatherings of more than 10 people
and states and cities have implemented bans to that effect.

In a survey released March 20, Private Jet Card Comparisons,
a website and buyers guide that tracks the private jet for-hire industry, found
that 33% of private jet users still expected private flying to increase
compared to last year, while 37% anticipate a decrease. Notably, 46% of
respondents said they were most likely to use a private jet in the next three
to four months in order to relocate a family member. In addition, 35% said they
would use a private jet for critical business trips. The survey was comprised
of 90 people who flew an average of 111 private jet hours in 2019, according to
Private Jet Card Comparisons editor-in-chief Doug Gollan.

Zaher said that Paramount received a 300% jump in calls
immediately after the European travel ban was announced on March 11. Many of
those inquirers gave up after learning of the cost. And cancellations have also
increased because of the Covid-19 virus.

Still, he said business through the first half of March was
up 25% to 30% year-over-year.

Many of the customers are new and a lot of them are elderly.

“All of it is directly related to the coronavirus and the
fear around coronavirus and the fears in flying in a commercial airliners,”
Zaher said.

Like commercial airlines, private jet companies have rolled
out more rigorous cleaning regimens due to Covid-19. For example, Omaha-based
JetLinx has begun touting its use of the Bioprotectus System. The system,
JetLinx says, “encompasses an array of EPA registered and FDA compliant
technologies that disinfect and inhibit the growth and spread of problematic
bacteria, fungi, algae, mold and viruses.”

Private jet company customers often join jet card programs,
which typically lock in prices for a year and ease the booking and cancellation
processes.

JetLinx last week rolled out a 90-day jet card membership
program.

That shorter program, said CEO Jamie Walker, “ is just one
more way we are making our services available to those who are not part of our
program but need a flight solution that safeguards their health and provides
guaranteed mobility during this time of uncertainty.”  

Gollan said that the cost of renting a six-seat private jet
typically starts at around $5,000 per hour for a one-way flight. Roundtrip
rates are less expensive.

“For travel agents who have wealthy clients that they know
have the budget, a jet card makes it an easy way for them to travel,” he said.

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