Coronavirus Boosts Demand For Charter Flights

Credit: Emirates

With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the charter flight industry has been responding to requests for charters related to travel disruptions brought on by the virus.

Air Charter Service, based in the UK, has been “inundated with requests,” the company reports.  So has Air Partner, also based in the UK.

“Since the outbreak our offices around the world have been arranging flights on local carrier aircraft as the world deals with the travel disruption and overall cut to capacity in the region,” said Justin Lancaster, Air Charter Service commercial director. Air Charter Service arranges flights for clients. “We have flown everything from four passengers on a private jet, to hundreds on larger aircraft, to 100 tons of surgical masks. It has been all systems go since the epidemic was first reported.”

Some customers have tried to avoid the COVID-19 infection by avoiding commercial aircraft with large numbers of passengers. Several organizations and governments have evacuated en masse on larger aircraft, such as on an Airbus A380. It has also flown relief cargo into the region, including protective overalls, medical gloves and millions of surgical masks, Lancaster said.

Air Partner has evacuated nearly 340 British and European Union nationals from Wuhan, China, and delivered more than 600 boxes of medical supplies. 

The challenges were many. Air Partner worked with aviation regulators and public health organizations to put in place safeguards and protocols for the flight crew. UK medical professionals were also on board. Securing the required overflight and landing permissions was also challenging and deadlines were tight.

Air Partner also encountered difficulties.

“We have faced various challenges in booking the flights, including passengers requesting crew that had not been to China since the beginning of January, clients not willing to put their cargo on aircraft that have recently been to the region (and) obtaining diplomatic permits,” Lancaster said. 

Staff from three Air Charter regional offices have been working from home to minimize the risk of infection. Its U.S., European and Middle East offices have also been involved in booking the charters. 

Its biggest challenge is making sure all government and medical advice is being followed. During the week of Feb. 10, Air Charter Service had to cancel four flights due to changes in regulations in certain countries, it said.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.