Acute Distance

Stuff that matters

Charter firm ‘overwhelmed’ by demand for flights to second homes overseas, with Canary Islands top of the list

Wealthy people in England are booking private jets to escape the lockdown set to be introduced on Thursday, according to jet brokers.

Air Partner, one of the biggest aircraft charter firms, said there had been a “sharp rise” in private jet bookings out of the country before Thursday.

The company, which supplies planes to Premier League footballers, celebrities, the royal family and six of the eight governments in the G8, said it had been overwhelmed with inquiries.

“Many of these flight inquiries are for individuals wishing to go to their second homes in Europe, with the Canary Islands, which are still warm at this time of year, being the most sought-after destination,” the company said.

“We do expect to continue to see some demand for private jet flights during the rest of the month for business travel, particularly as many commercial flights become grounded and unavailable.”

The new lockdown in England, expected to come into force on Thursday, will ban residents in England from travelling abroad except for essential work until at least 2 December.

Air Partner said it would cost about £24,000, one way, for five people to depart from Biggin Hill to Tenerife before lockdown.

Commercial airlines have dramatically reduced their flight schedules in anticipation of an even greater fall in demand for international travel, which has been moribund since the pandemic began.

However, private jet operators have reported a much smaller decline in bookings. The operators say this is because the super-rich have continued to travel as much as before.

In addition, more moderately wealthy people are seeking out private jets as they view it as a safer way to travel during the pandemic because it avoids potentially crowded commercial planes and airport terminals.

Private jet operators also reported a rise in bookings before the first UK-wide lockdown in March. They also marketed “evacuation flights” out of countries badly hit by the virus.

The number of private flights dipped by just 10% between 1 September and 15 October compared with last year, according to the aviation consultancy WINGX. That compares with a more than 50% drop in scheduled commercial flights.

Richard Koe, the managing director of WINGX said: “Business aviation demand has been considerably more resilient than commercial airline activity throughout the pandemic, with a really strong rebound in last summer as travel restrictions got lifted.

“That recovery has relapsed this autumn as leisure demand has tails off and business travellers stay home, but the latter could pick up as economies recover. The advantages of flying private, notably hygiene control and convenience, should continue to draw some customers from the airlines.”

Oliver Stone, the managing director of the private jet brokerage firm Colibri Aircraft, said: “Covid-19 has also resulted in an increase in enquiries from potential first-time buyers of business aircraft as the crisis has helped raise the profile and benefits of flying privately amongst those who can afford to do this.

“For many business owners and executives, travel is a necessary component to keep their business running. The use of private aviation is now often the only way to continue to travel and keep their companies operational.”

Private jets emit about 20 times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than commercial flights, according to industry data.