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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Private jets: No delays, no security hassles and not as pricey as you might think


No delays, no security hassles and not as pricey as you might think, so… join the jet stream

  • Flying by private jet has become more popular due to Covid-19, says PrivateFly
  • St Albans-based firm has seen 40 per cent of its bookings from new customers
  • People are attracted to the VIP service because it’s ‘safer’ and more ‘flexible’  

Flying by private jet has long seemed the preserve of tycoons and super-rich celebrities — but Covid-19 is changing all that.

‘Forty per cent of our bookings are from new customers,’ reports Adam Twidell, CEO of charter specialist PrivateFly. 

The St Albans-based company has seen a surge of interest since the beginning of the pandemic, despite the substantial expenses involved — a one-way flight from London to Nice on a six-seater jet will set you back almost £10,000.

Flying high: More and more holidaymakers are now travelling on private planes

Flying high: More and more holidaymakers are now travelling on private planes

‘Last weekend, demand tripled when France, Monaco and the Netherlands joined the quarantine list, and following the addition of Croatia and Austria on Thursday, we have arranged flights for families returning from Split and Graz.’

In these challenging times, more and more travellers now feel this is a price worth paying, particularly if their party includes someone at high risk.

For one thing, it is likely to be much safer — on a commercial flight passengers will encounter an estimated 700 potentially hazardous ‘touch points’, while on a private jet trip there are fewer than 30. Another reason is flexibility. There are more than 3,000 airfields across Europe where a private plane can touch down. Plus, travellers can be driven right up to the aircraft steps, customs and immigration checks done in advance, and you can take heaps of luggage — including pets.

Jersey, Nice, Ibiza, Milan and Athens have been favourite getaway spots this summer — and families in particular have been attracted to upgrading to this VIP service. ‘We recently booked a flight from Edinburgh to Palma for two adults, two children and two golden retrievers,’ says Twidell. ‘They were new clients who felt safer flying privately and the cost was £12,000 one-way.’

Today, the average age of a PrivateFly passenger is just 36 — a year ago it was 41 — while 18 per cent of those flying are children under 16. Sometimes households join forces to split the bill — a one-way flight from London to Mykonos on a 13-seater Legacy 600 costs from £27,600, or £2,123 a head.

‘Britons are on tenterhooks waiting to see if the next quarantine announcement will affect their travel plans,’ says Andy Christie, a director at Air Charter Service.

More than half the company’s bookings are made within three days of travel, and yesterday it set up a 24-hour hotline to help people get home or to a newly opened destination, such as Portugal. 

PrivateFly has just started a Jet Card scheme that guarantees fixed hourly rates and availability within 24 hours. Both PrivateFly and on-demand jet firm Victor have apps where you can get a quote in seconds.

On a commercial flight, passengers will encounter an estimated 700 potentially hazardous ‘touch points’, while on a private jet trip there are fewer than 30

On a commercial flight, passengers will encounter an estimated 700 potentially hazardous ‘touch points’, while on a private jet trip there are fewer than 30

Helicopters are also proving popular. Apollo Air Services has fitted three of its fleet with air purification units, which allow passengers to fly without wearing a face mask (on a private jet such precautions are up to the client). The firm has seen a 40 per cent increase in enquiries.

Chartering a chopper costs from £2,040 an hour for six people, while a 90-minute flight from London to Paris is priced at £6,900 one-way.

Couples are also taking ‘healthy heli’ trips to luxury hotels which have their own landing pads, such as Chewton Glen in the New Forest and Gleneagles in Perthshire.

As the virus rages on, demand is unlikely to let up — not least because once you’ve flown in your own private bubble it is very hard to go back to the slog and stress of regular airports. ‘We’re now seeing an increase in bookings to the Alps for winter holidays,’ says Twidell.

For those with the cash, going private has become the only way to fly.

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