The Only Way Is Up
Robb Report Singapore|May 2021
Private aviation navigates the global health crisis with aplomb.
Lauren Jade Hill

THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY is, perhaps unsurprisingly, said to be the industry most affected by the pandemic. In February, the International Air Transport Association revealed that demand had fallen by 65.9 per cent in 2020. For private aviation, the outcome has been far more favorable, with data showing that while flight numbers were a little more volatile depending on who you asked, the industry as a whole saw greater recovery over the year as well as a significant rise in new interest.

NetJets revealed that after its flight volume initially dropped to as low as 10 per cent, the company was back to operating at 85 per cent volume, compared with 2019, by the end of the year. What’s perhaps even more significant is the surge of interest this industry has seen from new clientele. VistaJet reported an increase of 29 per cent in new members joining in 2020, with 18 per cent coming from Asia.

Growing Popularity

It’s a no-brainer given that private jets provide a safer way to fly with reduced exposure to health and security risks. According to Airshare, while every commercial flight presents passengers with around 700 touchpoints, private jet travelers are said to only encounter 20.

This is a sentiment Ian Moore, a chief commercial officer of VistaJet, reiterates. “Due to a steep reduction in commercial scheduled flights and increasing concerns around personal safety, the pandemic has accelerated demand for business aviation as a safer and more reliable way to fly,” he says. “As the number of touchpoints significantly decreases when flying private, the travel industry sees an increased number of first-time private flyers.

“McKinsey & Company estimated that, before the pandemic, only 10 per cent of people who could afford to fly privately were doing so. And recently, research shows that 79 per cent of UHNWIs would be more inclined to travel by private jet than before. This is reflected in our new incoming requests: in the first half of 2020, 71 per cent were from passengers who had not regularly used business aviation solutions before.”

And while NetJets did see an initial dip, the case was different in Southeast Asia. Stefan Wood, managing director of Singapore Air Charter, says: “At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a rush in private aviation in the form of last-minute vacations or expedited business meetings. Following this, the industry has seen a gradual increase in the use of private aviation for continuity of business along with a capitalisation on leisure travel between permitted locations.

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