Driven by a surge in new customers and a focus on leisure travel, pets with wealthy owners are increasingly finding themselves flying privately

The number of private jets flights with pets has doubled since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to Adam Twidell, CEO of jet card and on-demand charter broker PrivateFly.

Speaking at Corporate Jet Investor’s weekly Town Hall, Twidell said business through October is tracking slightly ahead 2019 levels.

He presented an optimistic outlook for the charter and jet card market.

While business travel has yet to recover, he said conversations with company finance directors indicate that unused travel budgets could be reallocated to using private flights for those critical business trips that need to take place. He said companies are concerned about exposing employees to the coronavirus via the airlines.

Another helpful factor is affluent consumers are taking few vacations.

“Instead of eight or 10 holidays, they’re taking two or four. That means they have more money to spend on flights for each trip, and many of them are choosing to fly privately,” he told the audience of around 500 industry professionals.

In terms of pets, he said one flight included 13 cats. Customers have also brought along pet snakes and falcons.

“It’s a good time to be a pet with a wealthy owner,” he quipped.

Twidell said private flyers are seeking to reduce possible COVID-19 exposure and in some cases can’t find airline flights due to reduced schedules.

Janine K. Iannarelli, who advises buyers of used aircraft, said she had seen a surge in interest. She cites a combination of customers seeking to complete deals before year’s end if a Biden administration removes tax breaks that benefit private jet purchases.

She also said many clients simply don’t believe that it’s safe to fly in an airliner packed with 150 people they don’t know.

Twidell said in addition to pets and UHNW travelers, the industry has served as a critical link in fighting the global pandemic. He said there had been an uptick in flights transporting cancer care patients for treatments, flying scientists, doctors, first responders, and urgent supplies.

In many cases, he said private jets are filling in for these critical trips on routes where the reduced airline schedules make flying commercially impractical.

Some participants are concerned the industry’s opaque marketing approaches might turn off new customers. Francisco Zozaya, an SVP with JSSI, said lack of transparency about the true cost of flying in the private skies could mean a quick exit for first-timers who don’t understand the true financial commitment.

Charles Porteous, an industry consultant said in many cases, the industry doesn’t know who has the money to fly privately until they come forward.

Providing unbiased advice to newcomers is going to be more critical as the pandemic continues. Greg Johnson, CEO of Tuvoli, a platform that streamlines payments between brokers and operators said more private flyers are booking trips within a week of departure. Prior to COVID-19, he said the typical window was two to three weeks.

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