With the growing focus on climate change and carbon emissions, private jet owners are facing new challenges. Firstly, carbon commitments will increase costs for many. But more than this, aircraft owners are increasingly being called out for excessive or unnecessary use. This does not help the image or brand. It also has privacy and security implications.
Moving to aircraft rental may be both better for the environment and alleviate these additional problems. It is something we are likely to see more of going forward.
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New carbon commitments, and shifting public opinion
There has undoubtedly been a big shift towards sustainability and green thinking in the aviation sector. The entire industry has committed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In the private aviation space, there has been increasing pressure on aircraft owners. This is both financial (with all companies challenged to reduce or offset emissions, and potential further taxation a possibility) and pressure from society.
Pressure is affecting all types of aircraft owners. Government and corporate users attending the recent COP27 climate conference are a good example at the top end. Attendees were criticised by climate activists and the media for the extensive use of private jets to reach Egypt. Protests against this even blocked access to private jet terminals in London and several European cities.
There are many cases of individuals being called out for jet usage too. Short and excessive private jet use increasingly attracts high profile coverage. This is not good for anyone’s image or brand. As one well publicised recent example, Kylie Jenner was heavily criticised for repeated very short flights (as short as nine minutes) in California. Sharing photos did not help. Such extravagance is not viewed well in an increasingly conscious world.
Well shared online research took this further (published for example in The Washington Post). This accuses celebrity jet owners of having carbon emissions of 480 times those of the average person. Shorter journeys are particularly criticised once again.
Dropping ownership, but still wanting privacy
There is an obvious solution to rising costs, meeting climate commitments, and avoiding public criticism – give up the private jet. However, governments, corporations and individuals use jets for good reasons, and this has not changed. Private travel still offers the convenience, flexibility and privacy needed by many. Switching from ownership to rental is an alternative, and something we are starting to see more of in the market.
Such data is not readily published. Avoiding scrutiny and maintaining privacy remains key of course. As one recent published example, Bernard Arnault, the world’s second richest man, gave up his private aircraft. This came after facing pressure on usage, and concerns over privacy as this was publicly available. Explaining his switch to rental, he said:
“The result now is that no one can see where I go because I rent planes when I use private planes.”
Renting makes financial sense
As well as promoting a green image, aircraft rental makes economic sense. Rental has always been a good alternative to ownership. Aircraft ownership is expensive, with high operating costs. Maintenance, storage, and insurance costs build up continually, no matter how much the aircraft is used. Add in new costs for carbon offsetting, and potential taxation in the future and it gets worse.
These new situations bring other challenges that are harder to quantify. With rapidly developing public feelings, individuals, businesses and even governments will be thinking hard about aircraft ownership. Privacy concerns, and the impact on personal or corporate brands all now need to be factored in.
Aircraft rental is booming
The rental market obviously slowed down during the pandemic but has come back stronger since. This is driven by owners switching to charter, as well as new users moving to private aviation for the first time. The pandemic highlighted the benefits of both more personal space and flexibility in scheduling (especially amidst changing and uncertain commercial flights).
Private aviation rebounded quickly though once restrictions started to end. By mid-2021, usage was already up 10% on 2019 levels (and 42% on 2020 levels). More recently, in mid-2022, it was reported that the global private charter market is currently growing at 12.4% annually.
It is an interesting time for private jet travel. Usage is at a high post-COVID and predicted to grow. Aircraft availability (both for purchase and rental) has seen issues, but rental is once again rising in popularity. With the growing cost, net zero commitments, privacy concerns and impact on brand and image, jet ownership is facing new problems that rentals may not.
Kylie Kenner: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jul/21/kylie-jenner-short-private-jet-flights-super-rich-climate-crisis
Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/08/02/taylor-swift-kylie-jenner-private-jet-emissions/
Charter CAGR data: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/08/15/2498369/0/en/At-12-4-CAGR-Charter-Flight-Market-Size-is-likely-to-Hit-USD-51-88-billion-by-2029-Latest-Innovations-and-Trends-Regional-USA-China-etc-Analysis-and-Industry-Data-Adroit-Market-Res.html
For rental stats, see FlightWorx post on Growing Demand for Rental
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