Cleaning trumps cost for private jet flyers in a COVID-19 world

By Doug Gollan, December 2, 2020

Private jet cost and cabin comfort are taking a backseat to COVID-19. Coronavirus related health and safety concerns now top of the list of passenger priorities, according to new research presented by JetNet IQ. The industry has benefited from research showing less exposure risk on private jets compared to the airlines. Operators of private jets have been proactive in rolling out COVID protocols.

During a press conference during VBACE, this year’s virtual rendition of the private aviation industry’s annual mega-convention, the JetNetIQ quarterly survey revealed a new pecking order of what’s important for private jet customers.

Respondents included over 500 operators of private aircraft from charter companies to corporate flight departments. They spanned 61 countries, with the majority being U.S.-based.

COVID-19 changes priorities for private jet flyers

Cleaning private jets, air circulation, social distancing, crew health screening, and other COVID-19 related issues trumped private jet flights’ price by a nearly three-to-one margin.

COVID-19 travel trends
Source: JetNet IQ

Asked to rank passengers and customers’ biggest concerns, 22.3% of the private jet operators said “cleaning procedures between flights.” It edged out the “cost of the flight” at 21.5%. Air circulation in the cabin (12.1%) was followed by cabin comfort (8.4%), maintaining social distancing (7.7%), crew health screening (7.4%), eliminating overnight stays (6.2%), eliminating fuel stops (4.4%), flight time (4.3%), WiFi availability (3.3%), having empty seats around each passenger (2.1%) and using sustainable fuel (0.2%).

In total, the COVID-19 related issues gained 62.2% of votes as a top concern compared to 21.5% for private jet flight cost. Researcher Rolland Vincent noted the health issues “would not have even been on the screen” in past surveys.

He also added to the continued bullish outlook for the industry. From a high of + 55 in 2018 on a – 100 to + 100 scale, net optimism plummeted to – 43 Q2 2020. It rebounded to + 4.2 in the third quarter. Of respondents to its Q4 survey, net optimism had surged to + 18.4% on November 9. That’s the date Pfizer announced its COVID-19 vaccine has a 95% efficacy. Since then, respondents’ level of optimism increased to + 28.1, which is up from + 9 in Q1 2020.

In North America, nearly three-quarters of respondents (73.6%) agreed that private jet usage (flight hours and cycles) would return to pre-COVID-19 levels within the next 12 months. That includes 39.9% who strongly agreed. That was ahead of Latin America (66.9%) and Europe (54.5%).

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