Over 50% of private jet flight hours sold since the beginning of April were to new customers

Jet card leader Sentient Jet today offered more evidence that private jet travel is set to get a boost from first-timers.

The unit of Directional Aviation’s OneSky Flight said over 50% of the more than 5,000 private jet flight hours it sold since the beginning of April were to first-time customers. Private Jet Card Comparisons estimates that equates to around $15 million in purchases from new members.

“The encouraging demand for private aviation from new customers, and in particular for jet cards that provide flight time for multiple trips, indicates that travelers are making a long-term commitment to flying private and using it as a utility rather than a lifestyle amenity,” said Andrew Collins, CEO of Sentient Jet.

He is backing up his optimism with a marketing push. The “Be Ready” ad campaign is a direct response to the new ways people are traveling amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release.

Sentient Jet
Sentient Jet is launching a new ad campaign under the slogan, “Be Ready”

In explaining the initiative, the company said, “People are avoiding crowded locations and are wary of high-touch TSA checkpoints and commercial aircraft. At the same time, many are faced with a need to travel for business, to reconnect with family or change locations. Sentient Jet provides a solution for those preparing to return to travel against this new backdrop where health and safety standards are more important than ever.”

One analysis shows that Covid-19 exposure risk is 30 times lower when flying privately. Industry executives have long believed the market for private aviation had a big room for growth.

“Recent statistics released by McKinsey show that over 90% of people who can afford to travel private don’t. We are now seeing this change as outreach from new customers has increased and many of them are coming off the sidelines and turning to private aviation as a trusted travel solution,” Collins noted.

Various reports estimate between one and two million U.S. households and business can afford to fly privately.

The “Be Ready” ads have three executions. The first shows a man in a blue blazer looking out the window of a private jet. The copy reads, “Your return flight to business as usual. Be ready. Get the card.”

A second ad shows the same man walking away from the camera towards a private jet. It reads, “We’ve built a business on avoiding crowds. Be ready. Get the card.”

In the other execution, two young girls smile as they seemingly point to something outside the window of their private jet. The copy reads, “Be read to get back to family. Get back to life. Get the card.

Sentient’s jet card program starts at $137,000 for 25 hours on a light jet. A spokesperson said the sale of memberships represents “a serious commitment to flying private in the long-term as opposed to using private aviation as a one-time solution.”

Last year, Sentient celebrated its 20th anniversary of inventing the jet card, by tweaking its program. In addition to adding WiFi guaranteed for midsize and large cabin private jets, it also now offers fixed one-way rates on peak days for large-cabin jets.

In addition to private flights, Sentient has also become famous for its annual catalog of special offers from luxury and lifestyle partners. This year’s edition contained over $175,000 in freebies and discounts.

Probably more important these days, Sentient is also adding a health-hygiene requirement for the charter operators it uses for members flight.

By the end of June, it will require partner operators to have treated the private jets used for Sentient with a specialized anti-bacterial coating. Additionally, pilots will be provided with and an app and health tool kit, including cuff and thermometer, with multiple times daily reporting.

Last month, Collins told a Corporate Jet Investor Town Hall he hoped private aviation would be “last in, first out” and might be a “net winner.” Four weeks later, his predictions look to be coming true.

Airline CEOs have said it may take at least three years to rebuild their route networks. On Friday, the Department of Transportation gave preliminary approval for airlines to drop service to 60 small and mid-sized cities.

Lower frequencies and fewer cities served are likely to drive even more of that 90% to private jets. Existing schedules are often reduced to one or two flights a day. That means a missed connection might mean the need for an overnight and a 24-hour delay.

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