Private charter flights are often seen as an option exclusively for C-level executives and A-list celebrities. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers have explored alternatives to commercial air travel. With safety concerns in mind, many have tested the skies of private charter flights.
COVID-19 has created an increasing number of new charter customers who are choosing private flights. Before the pandemic, only 10 percent of those who could afford to fly privately were doing so. The selling points of efficiency, privacy, and convenience weren’t compelling enough for this market. Now, these travelers are reconsidering this option as a safer way to travel. The shift in attitude by this market may benefit the charter market as they are now seen as a healthier alternative to flying commercially.
For charters who have continued operations through the pandemic, the industry is taking off. Commercial air travel seems scary for many. Even as vaccines will likely be widely available in 2021, it will take time for the public to return to pre-pandemic trust levels.
Avoiding Crowded Airports
With concerns about social distancing, travelers are anxious to avoid crowded terminals at airports. By choosing charter flights, passengers enjoy the benefits of avoiding TSA security lines and waiting for check-in. Charter passengers often clear customs separately from other travelers in the main airport terminals. Since private flights usually travel directly to the destination, passengers avoid passing through multiple congested airports.
With over 5,000 airports in the US alone, passengers have more flexibility to fly to an airport that is closer to their final destination rather than flying into a bigger airport served by commercial airlines. Some of these smaller airports have the capability to move passengers through check-in, security screening, customs, and immigration. Often, passengers can exit the plane at the end of the flight and avoid entering the terminal altogether.
According to GlobeAir, charter flights are estimated to have a 30 times lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than commercial flights. Travelers choose to charter because they do not want to be confined on an airplane with strangers whose health status is unknown. It is impossible to practice social distancing on a commercial aircraft. With some airlines now selling all available seats, including the middle seats, many people who typically fly on commercial flights no longer feel safe. Commercial airlines claim that social distancing is not needed onboard their aircraft, but this is not an acceptable option for many passengers.
Private charters can personalize safety measures onboard, such as leaving empty seats between travelers and providing extra personal protective equipment. Chartering allows passengers to separate from others and enjoy a more private experience as opposed to a crowded commercial plane.
Charter airlines have used health and safety advantages as a selling point through the pandemic. Convincing passengers that charters offer a reduced risk of exposure to COVID-19 has been essential to keeping flights in the air.
Charter operations must continue to invest in cleanliness. This includes having flight crews take regular temperature checks and intensive cleaning before and after flights. Many operators have even applied anti-bacterial treatments to aircraft interiors. These measures appeal to travelers in high-risk categories. Flying privately has become essential to avoid the chance of being infected with the virus during travel.
The current selling point for new charter customers may be safety, but passengers may continue to choose private flights as they get used to this experience. It may be difficult for these travelers to return to commercial airlines. As charter airlines work to maintain these new customers, they need to emphasize other advantages of their services.
New charter customers are learning that commercial airlines cannot replicate the convenience of private flights. Passengers are not required to arrive hours ahead of their charter flight and spend time waiting to board. Arriving 15 minutes before the flight is often enough. Shorter wait times may be a difficult benefit to give up if they return to commercial flights.
Through the pandemic, commercial airlines have limited schedules. Charter flights make it easier to travel to more locations. They now have the option of a direct three-hour flight instead of using a whole day to travel. The convenience of going directly to their destination may win these new clients over.
While new charter passengers may view avoiding the main terminal of an airport as necessary for safety, the chance to avoid that process every time they travel may be too good to pass up. After the flight, luggage is unloaded immediately, thus not requiring passengers to spend time at the baggage carousel. For passengers who value their time, these benefits can be priceless.
Charter flights give travelers more control over their entire trip. With a lack of commercial flight availability, they will find it easier to go directly to their destination at a time of their choice. Charter airlines can take them non-stop to their destination, no matter how remote. If the closest airport is small, a charter can still get them there in one flight. Due to the pandemic, passengers may prefer trips to less popular locations.
Unlike commercial airlines, chartering a private aircraft allows passengers to fly on their own timeline. Private flights tend to be faster than commercial because they do not have specific routes and schedules. Charter operators can plan their routes and the aircraft can fly at a higher altitude than commercial airlines to avoid air traffic.
It will be up to the charter airlines to promote these advantages and keep new customers. Marketing the benefits beyond COVID-19 safety measures will be essential. As commercial airlines reduce the frequency of routes and eliminate in-flight services, new customers are likely to continue chartering their flights. It is up to these operations to promote private travel benefits for their passengers to return.
With this potential to increase customer base, it is vital for aviation operations to stay on top of flight traffic, fuel costs, and the most demanding routes. ARGUS TRAQPak flight tracking software supplies real-time and historic flight operations data with aviation tracking to increase competitive edge. The flight-tracking software and robust database provide information necessary to numerous types of aviation businesses, including charter operators to fixed based operators.
Vice President of Market Intelligence