Private jet charter brokers face shortages, educating new customers

By Doug Gollan, March 9, 2021

The combination of new customers and a return of pre-COVID private aviation users could push private jet charter prices higher by the summer

There could be a shortage of private jets available for the charter market by summer. That’s according to the boss of a leading private jet charter and jet card brokerage. Simultaneously, the industry is faced with the welcome but time-consuming task of educating new consumers about the ins and outs of on-demand charter and jet cards.

Is a charter jet shortage coming?

Speaking during Corporate Jet Investor’s weekly Town Hall, David McCown, U.S. president of Air Partner, told listeners, “Last year, we doubled new customers over the prior year, and from what I read, we are not alone.”

Customers who have already received the vaccine or have their injections scheduled are booking in advance. Trips they plan to take in April and May are already reserved. Air Partner’s jet card enables customers to book with as little as 24 hours notice with guaranteed availability. The long lead-time suggests a determination to get back out there, he believes.

McCown said as the U.S. begins opening up and business travel gains traction, by summer, he expects there to be a shortage of private jets for charter as well as upward pricing pressure.

Peder von Harten, vice president of sales and marketing at Nicholas Air, said a more positive profile boosts the industry. “Private aviation is not taboo as it once was,” he said.

In a separate webinar, Aviation Week’s Molly McMillen seconded the notion that as it warms up, “a surge in business travel” and continued lacking airline schedules will mean demand from existing and new users. She expects many newbies to stay away from the airlines for at least some period, noting, “Once you fly privately, you don’t want to go back.”

These extra costs surprise new private jet users

Newbies are being welcomed, but panelists say it’s easy for them to mistake.

Robert Baltus, COO for the European Business Aviation Association, said unpleasant surprises are ruining some newcomers’ experience. That includes post-flight WiFi charges that “can cost more than a flight.”

While some jet cards and on-demand charter flights include complimentary connectivity, others don’t. Customers don’t read the fine print. They aren’t aware they may be responsible for inflight WiFi charges when they sign the contract.

Others are shocked when they see bills into the thousands of dollars for deicing. Again, some jet card programs include deicing, while others charge per incidence. Most on-demand charter flights charge the customer for deicing.

Another webinar, this one by Business Jet Traveler, found there is still a healthy flow of potential new customers. When it comes to flying privately, 43% of attendees said, “I have little or no experience.” Another 30% classified previous use as “occasional.”

However, avoiding COVID-19 seems to no longer be a primary concern. Nearly half (45%) said the main reason to fly privately is to save time. More than a quarter (27%) said it’s the ability to use airports that airlines don’t serve. Only 12% cited health issues related to the ongoing pandemic.

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