So many opinions. So many theories. So many predictions. To cut through the confusion, we asked three of our senior sales executives in key regions – people at the heart of the industry – to tell us what’s actually going on in private aviation at the moment.
Michael Slavin, Key Account Manager, Americas
We saw a high amount of industry activity at the end of March through repatriation flights for the coronavirus pandemic. April was very quiet and then, as restrictions lifted, there was large demand for departures from the south-east US. Since the crisis began, light jets have been utilised more than large or super midsize aircraft.
Across the US, many operators have needed to change their processes and establish new policies to keep employees and customers safe during the crisis. Logistics have become difficult, as many pilots have needed to be on the road while making sure their exposure to the virus is minimised.
As a long-term result of COVID-19, new clients might enter the lower end of the US bizav market, particularly for short trips on light jets. Private aviation is a safer way to travel than a commercial airline flight but there is a price gap new entrants must consider.
Gustav Andreasen, director of sales, EMEA
Since the coronavirus crisis began, European markets with a lot of domestic travel have done better than markets reliant on cross-border flights. As a result, Russia and Turkey have performed relatively well.
Across Europe, we’ve seen operators and brokers being creative to respond to the situation. Some aircraft have been converted for ambulance and cargo operations and, similarly, I’ve talked to brokers who have moved from only handling business charter flights to arranging medical and freight flights too.
It will be very interesting to see what this summer is like and even more interesting to see activity in 2021, considering all the major events that have been pushed back until next year.
Although restrictions have not been as tight here in Sweden as in other parts of the world, my entire team has been working from home, as have most Swedish ‘Noders’. It’s tough and we miss the daily interactions but I have to say we’ve performed superbly.
Looking for positives, going through this crisis will help us, as an industry, be prepared if something unexpected happens again. But let’s hope we’re never in this kind of situation again.
I’d say the mood of the industry remains fairly optimistic right now. Following COVID-19, we may see a growing number of people and companies flying privately for health and safety reasons. A lot of brokers tell us this trend is already underway.
Ian Croxton, account manager, Middle East
The virus has had a massive impact on business and on private aviation across the Middle East. Aircraft were basically grounded, as owners didn’t want to fly, or couldn’t, and didn’t want their jets being used for charter. Regulations were changing almost on a daily basis, so it was extremely difficult to know which flights could and could not be flown. Some operators chose to put their aircraft into maintenance.
I expect aircraft values to take a hit as a result of coronavirus but I also expect the overall health of the industry to be stable. I’m sure there will be casualties but I’m very confident there will be new players in the market too. As far as I can see there has been minimal long-term damage. Most aircraft are still there, which is a great sign. We just need to get those jets back in the air and we can start to return to normality.
This pandemic has brought many travellers into bizav for the first time. I’m convinced a high proportion of these clients will continue to use business jets, whether for all trips or just one family holiday a year.
After COVID-19 we may see stronger demand than before for clients wanting to share flights to common destinations. The new ‘normal’ might be passengers who used to buy first- or business-class airline tickets looking into private aviation. As the weeks pass and restrictions ease, we are seeing a steady increase in clients planning holiday trips for the months ahead. People are desperate to fly again after lockdowns, for business and leisure. When this initial wave subsides, I’d expect traveller numbers to go back to pre-coronavirus levels at the end of the summer and into autumn.
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