Bizav Trends Report Highlights COVID-19 Challenges, Opportunities
PrivateFly, a UK-based broker, has been publishing a quarterly Private Jet Charter Trends report since 2016, but never before has CEO and co-founder Adam Twidell had to write one quite like the latest edition, covering the first three months of 2020.
While he remains confident that the data included speaks not just of PrivateFly but mirrors trends across the private charter sector, he is equally certain that the information to be included in the next edition, due in July, will paint a grim picture.
“In March, we were double on [year-on-year] revenue, and that was quite common throughout the charter community,” he tells The Weekly of Business Aviation. “The type of flying people were doing was very different to a normal year: it was all about repatriations. But coming into April, it’s just dropped off a cliff.”
Among the trends the January-to-March report highlights are increased long-range flights. More than a third of PrivateFly’s bookings were for long-range and super-midsize aircraft, such as the Challenger 300, the company’s most-booked airplane in the quarter. Bookings for small jets were down from 52% in the first quarter of 2019 to 39% this year. Lead times were shorter, with 60% of flights booked within a week of departure and 23% for the same day or next day - up from 15% for the same period in 2019.
Some of these patterns are likely to continue, Twidell says, once lockdown restrictions on travel begin to ease. He also expects one trend—not captured in the report—to heavily influence the sector going forward.
“We are currently having double the number of inquiries we would normally have,” he says. “If restrictions were lifted today, we know there would be a huge surge. Often, people who fly private regularly would not do long-haul flights by private aviation: they would use private for short haul and look to airlines for long haul. But what we saw was that existing private jet customers were suddenly looking at the long haul instead of taking an airline.
“But the most exciting aspect of all this for the industry is the number of new customers who are inquiring,” he adds. “We’ve seen some fantastic [online review platform] Trustpilot reviews from first-time customers. Often, we’ve been transporting passengers who are at risk, who have been using private aviation for the first and possibly only time. But these people will be advocates of private aviation: after a good experience they’ll be talking about it with friends and family for years to come.”