Demands of high-net-worth flyers are changing in the wake of the pandemic.
Wealthy travellers flying by private jet are asking to personalise the safety of their flights during the pandemic, with some even requesting to fly without cabin crew.
As the world begins to gradually open up following Covid-19, the focus for high-net-worth flyers is less on the frills and luxuries associated with the industry and more on safety measures to ensure those aboard have no contact with the virus.
Passengers flying by private jet, of course, already have a range of benefits which enhance social distancing,
Often flying from smaller airfields or from private facilities at Gatwick there are far fewer touchpoints with the general public and a lot more perks. This includes access to their own private terminal, lounge and check-in areas, not to mention being the only people on the aircraft.
Kathy Leroy, VIP Charter Manager at Chapman Freeborn, a global VIP private jet charter specialist, said: “In terms of social distancing and keeping passengers safe from the virus when flying, chartering a private jet is about as good as it gets.
“The beauty for passengers is they have far more control over the safety procedures put in place. They will get straight onto a sanitised plane and have very little contact with anyone else on departure or arrival.
“In terms of risk of infection, there’s no doubt that the most dangerous place is the airport itself, that’s where the biggest crowds of people are. But for those flying by private jet, they could quite possibly board their plane without coming anywhere near another passenger.”
Flying by private jet conjures up images of rock stars and global sports icons, surrounded by their own entourage and with a long list of ‘riders’ required to make their journey more comfortable.
But although companies like Chapman Freeborn work tirelessly to fulfil those wishes and provide a luxury experience, the message in the industry at the minute is more about safety than added extras.
Kathy said: “What we are finding is that VIP clients are less fussed with the frills right now – they just want to make sure they are safe and not having to come into contact with anyone who might have the virus.
“Safety is by far the biggest message. Some VIPs are even requesting no cabin crew on the aircraft because they only want their own people on board. This is sometimes possible, depending on the size of the aircraft, and we are always willing to listen to all requests to personalise the safety environment.
“It’s a different scenario right now because usually VIP passengers are very particular about how they want their flight experience to feel.
“They know exactly which aircraft they want, how they want it branded and what kind of extras would make it a more comfortable experience. We even had one famous passenger who asked us to order in McDonald’s and bring it on board!
“At the moment, however, the main benefit of a private jet is that you travel on your own and have minimal touchpoints with anyone else.”
The other significant benefit of chartering a private jet, of course, is that more destinations are open to you – especially at a time when many scheduled flights have been cancelled because of the pandemic.
Those flying by private jet have been able to visit the Seychelles, for instance, even though the islands have not been open to scheduled flights.
“A lot of destinations are opening up to private jets first, and that could bring a lot of new people to the market,” Kathy added.
“If you want to take your family or friends to Ibiza for a weekend, and you have the money, it is certainly a good way to travel.
“Dubai is opening up, too, and in that region, the market is not just business – just as many wealthy people are flying for personal reasons. Families often leave the country in the summer to get away from the heat, and they have second homes elsewhere.
“In fact, we’re expecting VIP to boom as wealthy people consider how best to get to their destination with the smallest possible risk of infection. People who may previously have flown first class on a long-haul flight might choose to take a private jet somewhere nearer to home, for instance. It’s not only about luxury but also about feeling confident that you are as safe as possible when it comes to avoiding the virus.”