The use and ownership of private jets have increased over the past few years and is set to do so further. Commercial aviation has suffered significantly over the same period, with much uncertainty still in its recovery, but private aviation is on a different trajectory. Private jets offer more advantages than ever before in the “new normal” travel market.
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Surging private jet market during the pandemic
While private jet travel was becoming more popular anyway, the events of the past two years have certainly expedited its growth. Times were tough in 2020 with global travel restrictions. By mid-2021, though, private jet activity worldwide was up 42% since 2020 and 10% from pre-pandemic levels (according to aviation market research company WingX).
This has continued in 2021 and 2022. In July 2021, CNBC reported the US market was seeing its highest ever private jet use. In Europe, private ket operator Flexjet reported 53% more flights just in September August.
Growth has been different across regions (as shown in late 2021 by WingX). The US market has led the charge (with demand up 50%). China, Australia, and Brazil have seen big increases too – Europe and Canada have been slower but are shifting now.
With all the disturbances and challenges during the pandemic, it is hard to make predictions. Looking forward, however, signs are positive. Forbes predicts private jet market growth will continue, and the overall private aviation market will emerge from the pandemic 5% to 10% larger than before.
Increase in jet ownership
It is not just charters and general use that is increasing. More people are looking to own jets as well. The International Aircraft Dealers Association reported a 52% increase in sales in the second quarter of 2021, and this has continued.
You can also see the increase in demand from the lack of aircraft available. The market has risen quickly, and the supply of aircraft has struggled to keep up – especially as many manufacturers slowed down or made cuts to survive during the pandemic. CNBC claimed in 2021 that the availability of secondhand aircraft in the US was at an all-time low. Around the same time, the Financial Times reported that only 5.2% of the global private jet fleet was available for sale – compared to a standard rate of 8% to 10%.
Demand for jets remains strong. In the UK, The Guardian reported in late 2021 that private jet manufacturers were receiving orders for twice their current production rate. Ramping this production up will take time and require certainty over future demand, meaning supply is likely to be constrained for some time.
Private aviation advantages are more meaningful than before
Why is the private jet market increasing the way it is? It is really all to with the same benefits that private flying has always offered – just even more relevant these days.
In the early stages of the pandemic, new customers were looking to private aviation for evacuation or emergency flights, or for corporate travel where commercial services were not operating. This has now stabilised, with benefits such as convenience and private space becoming more apparent.
Commercial flights continue to suffer from uncertain schedules and frequent cancellations. Private aviation offers more certainty. With the problems experienced over the past two years, it is now harder to rely on commercial aviation – paying for assurance makes sense for businesses and private flyers who can afford it.
Users also want to avoid connections and travel separately from others. Paying for privacy was always a big driver for private flying – now you are also paying to stay away from crowds and stay safer.
US private operator Latitude 33 quotes some interesting research in this area. It claims that pre-pandemic, only 10% of those who could afford to fly privately actually did so. Now, as many as 79% of those who can afford to fly privately are inclined to do so.
Over the past half-year or more, we have started to see more clarity in the private jet market. Ups and downs during the pandemic are smoothing out, and it seems the trend is set for significant increases in private aviation. While operators and manufacturers adjust to this, there are likely to be challenges in aircraft availability (for sale and charter) and higher prices. This should improve as the market adapts, however.