Press "Enter" to skip to content

As COVID-19 Threatens Commercial Airlines, Will Private Charters Fill the Gap?

Any travel that’s non-essential is prohibited, due to social distancing and the nationwide lockdown provisions. This is offered up as a response to keeping COVID-19’s spread at bay. While it’s still possible to book a flight on major commercial airlines, it’s not as easy as it used to be. United Airlines has cut its flight schedule by 90 percent for the month of May, making travel between major cities harder to book. Flight loads continue to be dismal, even with states loosening restrictions on shutdowns. Large hotel chains like Marriott remain shuttered, too.

Changes in Commercial Airlines in COVID-19

Where there could be up to ten flights between major airports on any given day before the pandemic, now there’s only one flight per day. This leaves connecting flight options the only real chance for flexibility beyond the time allotted for a one way trip. But with the danger of traveling with exposure, connecting flights aren’t high on the average American’s wishlist. It only prolongs exposure and time away from the safety of shelter-in-place. This makes it even more challenging to reach smaller cities and smaller airports due to the decreased flight frequency. 

Most Americans would seldom consider flying private with the numerous commercial options initially available. The average American booking a flight was able to survey several major airlines, pricing options, and flight times. But, now that commercial flying can’t be relied on as it was before, some are making the switch to flying private to meet their current needs. 

Private Aviation Flexibility

Adam Hasiak is the founder of Access Jet Group, an on-demand private aviation company. They offer helicopters, midsize jets, long range jets, and commercial airliners for group charter. The accessibility gives customers the flexibility to book their desired size jet on a whim or with lead time – whatever they prefer. 

“We built our company on the several core values – one of which was flexibility,” said Hasiak. “We’ve seen an uptick in the number of bookings from people who have never flown private or seldom fly private, because they need to travel for family or personal reasons but don’t want to take a chance on flying commercial in the pandemic.”  The average private flight is under two hours, but Access Jet Group can do transcontinental or international, too. 

We’ve been seeing a lot fewer of these overhead, lately.
Price Difference 

Of course, the price is one factor. While purchasing a ticket on a commercial flight is the equivalent of paying for your seat, ‘chartering’ a jet, is the cost of the entire plane per hour. That can max out at around $50,000. Some boutique private aviation companies are finding ways to offer affordable alternatives for short range flights. Blackbird Air, offers a flight from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe for only $99 a person. That flight only lasts 55 minutes and it’s a float plane rather than a luxurious VIP charter. But they offer options of the latter, too. They haven’t altered their service substantially since the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, they’re taking extra precautions to disinfect seats and the plane between passengers. They’re also abiding by international laws and regulations regarding where they can take passengers. 

But one thing is for sure; with flying private comes extraordinary freedom. Rather than relying on the ever-changing commercial airlines as they respond to this crisis, there are a number of private aviation companies that can serve your needs on-demand. And, it’s very likely that being forced to try private aviation in the wake of the pandemic may convert some individuals into lifelong private fliers.