On one wing: the coronavirus reached private aviation

Restrictions on civil aviation flights amid the spread of the new coronavirus are global and almost total. World carriers tighten their belts, cancel flights and try to dump in the hope of making up for losses; shares of aviation industry companies went down, travel agencies expect enormous losses. Against this background, Western companies that provide private aviation services report a sharp increase in interest in their service. At the same time, their Russian colleagues say that they are more often faced with rejections of previously booked flights than with rush demand.

Take off on the virus

World airlines are experiencing a powerful, albeit not the first, global crisis in the last couple of decades. The continued spread of the new coronavirus (the WHO recognized it as a pandemic) has forced many governments to significantly limit or completely stop air traffic with China, where the original focus of infection was identified in Wuhan. After COVID-19 reached European countries, tough measures were taken not only in Rome, Madrid, Paris, and Berlin: both tourists and business travelers refuse these popular destinations. By the decision of President Trump, the United States closed its borders for those coming from Europe (except Great Britain) for a month at all.

According to the laws of nature, which are often valid for the economy, the vacated space must be filled with something. In this case, the segment that commercial airlines are forced to leave for a while is pleased to include companies operating in the field of private aviation.

Alan Leburzier, head of sales at the Swiss air broker Luna Jets, talks about an “impressive increase” in the number of orders and inquiries from passengers in recent weeks, which correlates with growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus. According to him, in February the share of “coronavirus” requests for renting business jets was 15%, now it has grown to 30%. “People either want to clean up or they have an urgent business trip that needs to be completed in the next day or two,” Leburzier told CNN.

The representative of Luna Jets spoke, in particular, about the passenger who booked a flight from Rome to London just a day before the Italian authorities introduced quarantine throughout the republic.

A similar situation is observed in North America. Thus, according to Richard Saer, president of Paramount Business Jets, a US-based company, “the growth in the number of charter flight requests was from 100 to 300% depending on the region” – a separate plane was needed as “standard” clients of private airlines – officials, representatives of the show world -business, sports teams, and businessmen, and those who usually fly first or business-class commercial flights.

Comfort and fear

There are many reasons why people decide to invest in freight for a business jet, paying at times or even tens of times more than for a regular flight ticket. As noted by Jerod Davis, founder, and head of the American private airline Southern Jet, in this case, there is a combination of factors – “common causes and fear.” According to Davis, many of his clients are people of age, which means they are at risk for coronavirus. “They would rather be on board alone, rather than in the company of a bunch of people in the cabin or line at the airport control point,” the senior manager suggested in an interview with CNN.

In addition to the smaller number of people with whom business jet tenants have to contact along the way from point A to point B, customers of private air companies can also hope that the disinfection of the aircraft themselves will be carried out at a higher level. According to the pilot of one of the American companies operating flights on private jets, “we are screening passengers to find out where they were and to eliminate the risks to our aircraft and crews.” “In any case, cleaning teams regularly clean and disinfect our aircraft at the bases. I’m sure that now these events are held much more often, ”the pilot added.

However, according to Justin Krabbe, the head of Jettly air broker, private plane operators find various loopholes in this situation that are closed to large carriers. “Passengers use private terminals located far from the terminals for commercial airlines and do not pass control points, perhaps they will even pass temperature measurement points,” he said in an interview with Business Insider.

You can go there: VIP passengers are preparing a separate border control
They want to return additional services to customers of airport lounges
However, one should not suspect the carelessness of customers of business jet operators automatically – sometimes they take additional precautions to reduce the risks of crew infection and the appearance of a virus onboard their ships. For example, Vimana Private Jets, working with ultra-wealthy clients, made several flights to Beijing in February, where its clients had business meetings. “Airplanes usually did not stay long in China. Instead, they were sent to Vietnam, where they were waiting for the return flight date to minimize the risks of crew contamination, ”Fortune wrote.

Salvation fee

The number of orders from people who are afraid of catching an infection is such that all flights are planned a month – we have not yet encountered such a Southern Jet. As a result, the head of the company, also licensed as a pilot, regularly sits at the helm, replacing other captains who need a break.

In a submission for Slate, Davis admitted that “fear turned out to be the most positive scenario” for his company from a business point of view. However, he expressed the hope that after the normalization of the situation, all new customers will remain with the company, realizing the advantages of private flights. “We would not want things to get worse. We have a heart. But the situation is just wild now. Previously, we could not even think that such a thing was possible, ”he admitted.

However, business is still business, and businessmen are not going to abandon their main goal – making a profit. Traveling aboard a business jet never belonged to the category of inexpensive pleasures. However, now, according to the British The Daily Mail, travelers are laying out up to $ 15 thousand per hour of flight to avoid the need to jostle with potential carriers of viruses in airport terminals. A rhetorical question arises – would a consultation with a professional psychologist and a basic set of personal protective equipment cost less?

“Crimea, Sochi and even Khatanga”

For Russian companies operating in the field of private aviation, the situation with coronavirus has no obvious positive effects, at least for now. As the owner of VIP Group Aero, Vladimir Pronin said that now more often you have to deal with refusals from previously booked flights. “At the same time, sometimes we even talk about flights to those countries where there was no excessively large-scale distribution of the coronavirus. For example, an order to fly to India failed, where the situation with the virus is generally almost normal, ”he said. Pronin also suggested that “a sharp increase in demand for private aviation services will begin when Russian commercial airlines stop flying to popular destinations in Europe.”

The Malina Jet air business brokerage company, in turn, reported that they saw an increase in requests for domestic flights. According to Alexei Kirilyuk, managing partner of the company, there is a demand for the May holidays not in the French Chambery, but in the Crimea, Sochi, and even Khatanga (Taimyr). “Our pricing policy as an air broker has not changed, and there is no visible increase in prices among operators,” he added.

Private Jet Booking confirmed that they are facing cancellation of previously booked flights: according to the company’s managing partner Grigory Murashov, clients “are anxious about their health and their lives, so many canceled their trip to Italy, France, and Spain.” “We also do not observe a bright surge in the number of orders. Although the vast majority of new customers for February-March are people who do not want to fly with other passengers on a regular airline, ”said Murashov. He added that amid the spread of COVID-19, “there were additional requirements for checking crews and arriving passengers, but the requirements for the operators themselves did not change,” so the crew undergoes an additional medical examination with temperature measurement before each departure and after each landing.

Graduated from Embry-Riddle Aviation University with a master's degree in aviation science. He began his career as an aviation researcher in local periodicals. Has a pilot license. Now are the author and developer of the Plane Worlds.