Private jet operators, brokers keep the music playing during the British Airways strike

By Doug Gollan, September 11, 2019

As a strike by its pilots caused BA to cancel nearly all its flights, private jet charter companies said they saw an uptick in inquiries and bookings

Air Charter Service moved a 100-person orchestra and their instruments, while Air Partner saved a leadership team from missing their own corporate retreat

With British Airways canceling nearly all of its flights during a two-day strike by its pilots which ended yesterday, several private jet charter brokers and operators say there was an increase in both inquiries and flights booked.

“We saw a massive uptick for requests, both direct and from brokers,” said Bernhard Fragner, CEO of GlobeAir AG, an Austrian based operator of four-seat Cessna Citation Mustang very light jets.

30% increase in call volume

Air Partner, a U.K.-based private jet charter broker said it was able to help the 12 person leadership team of one company whose flights were impacted by the BA strike make it to their own company summit.

A spokesperson told Private Jet Card Comparisons, “Air Partner has seen an uptick in calls resulting from the strike, mostly within the corporate segment, but none we can name publicly.”

She said there was a 30% increase in call volume compared to the same week last year with most of it from companies who were not current clients.

According to CNN, many flights were sold out and in some cases, fares jumped by up to 2,100. Several private jet companies said they were able to help clients impacted by the BA strike get where they needed to go, including an orchestra and corporate leadership team.

The company recently introduced a fixed-price, guaranteed availability jet card for transatlantic flights that is refundable. Clients can book with as little as 72 hours notice. British Airways is the largest airline in terms of flights and routes across the pond.

Keeping the music playing

“We flew an orchestra that had been booked on a BA flight and obviously didn’t want to cancel the concert,” noted a spokesperson for Air Charter Service.

He said while the private jet rental agency was able to keep the music playing, in this case, the booking was made about two weeks ago when it became apparent there might be the need for a Plan B.

Private jet charters

A spokesperson for Victor said whenever there are strikes by commercial airlines the private jet charter broker picks up new customers at the last minute, however, some are now being proactive.

“We’ve had one London-based founder and CEO of an e-commerce business, looking ahead to his future trips in the face of the strikes and has chosen to book privately for his family to Greece this upcoming half-term,” she said.

In another case, she noted, one business who was supposed to fly home from Italy, repack and head back on vacation, instead decided to charter a jet bringing his family to him. She said, “A last-minute flight to Italy during the summer can be a challenge due to slot availability, particularly at the popular airports of Milan and Florence, however, Victor was able to react quickly and deliver.”

She said during the last major industrial action, Victor picked up more than two dozen new customers, and there was a surge again this time, although she didn’t have specifics.

Unhappy BA customers

Some travelers who didn’t make alternate arrangements found themselves stranded. In one case, Sky News reports a family in Cyprus said they were left without a place to stay.

It’s also not clear how helpful BA was with impacted customers. One traveler appeared frustrated when the airline wouldn’t accommodate his need to change only a portion of his ticket.

Unfortunately, a ticket is a contract with restrictions

British Airways customer service on Twitter

From its Twitter account pictured below, BA responded, “Hi Andy, unfortunately, a ticket is a contract with restrictions.  Quite often one-way tickets are more expensive than returns and many tickets have change fees.  If you change the contract you will need to abide by the ticket rules or the contract is broken…if an outbound flight is not traveled on then the return flight is forfeit and canceled.”

Another customer was frustrated he couldn’t get a refund for a booking made for the next called strike date on Sept. 27.

In a tweet, WeiyaliWai wrote, “Today BA customer service helpline told me I couldn’t get a refund because my flight isn’t yet canceled, which contradicts your email to me.”

BA’s Twitter team responded, “We know it’s frustrating but there isn’t anything further we can tell you. If your flight is impacted due to strike action we will contact you as soon as possible.”

Private jet options to the BA strike

As we previously reported, several private jet companies have programs that can be used to provide a backup, offering both guaranteed availability and fixed pricing so you know ahead of time what you will pay. Unused deposits in some cases are refundable, or in all cases, can be used for future travel.

CNN reported that many flights were sold out and fares surged as much as 2,100%. As many as 280,000 travelers were impacted it said.

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