While most headlines during the pandemic have focused on commercial aviation, business aviation remains an integral part of global travel that too has been impacted by COVID-19. Across Europe, business aviation declined 25% year-over-year in 2020 according to Eurocontrol, as business jets were hampered by global flight restrictions. However, when compared to commercial aviation, business aviation has stood up quite well, owing to new customers learning more about the many benefits and cost effectiveness of travelling on business aircraft.
Restrictions Inhibit Global Travel
When the pandemic first began to take its toll on the global economy, analysts were hopeful that business aviation would remain active given that business aviation aircraft are smaller and therefore reduce the number of people onboard that could transmit the virus.
Instead, the industry suffered as nations like France, Germany and the United Kingdom began locking down borders or instituting mandatory quarantine requirements upon arrival. For the UK, having a 14 day mandatory quarantine period resulted in international business travellers having to choose between sacrificing two weeks of quarantine prior to conducting business in person or doing business virtually.
To make matters worse, with a new strain of COVID-19 making its way to the UK, travel remains completely shut down for those wishing to leave and travel to France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and more unless an individual is deemed essential.
Given the evolving nature of the travel bans, business aviation operators continue to monitor flight plans and NOTAMs carefully or risk having to have an aircraft turned around and sent back to the UK.
Converting from First Class to Private Jet
While global travel remains impaired, a strong desire for domestic travel is fueling some unique growth spots for business aviation. Privatefly, a global private jet charter broker company based in St Albans, England, has found that new clients are reflecting 65% of bookings.
For those that previously flew first class commercially, being exposed to business jets has opened their eyes to the flexibility and efficiency provided. In many cases, if properly coordinated, business jets can be not only cost effective, but also offer many conveniences not afforded when travelling by commercial jet.
In addition, rather than just have individuals increase business aeroplane travel, companies are beginning to send entire teams on trips to ensure continuity.
VistaJet, a global business aviation company based in Malta, notes how corporations are seeing the many benefits afforded to business jet travel, especially the increased flexibility and enhanced safety protocols. And while demand is mainly driven by customers in the US, the company notes that two of its most popular routes currently are from the UK to France and Italy, respectively.
Aviation remains one of the most hard-hit industries across the UK, as a combination of home lockdowns and increased quarantine requirements force would-be business travellers to stay put. That is not to say however that all is doom and gloom, as formerly first class business travellers are seeing the many perks afforded to travelling by business jet. And as the vaccine continues its rollout, business jet operators are confident that customers will continue to count on them for travel.
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