Will private jets become the 'new normal' in luxury travel? Clean, luxurious and time-efficient, it's not as ludicrously expensive as you might think.
After weeks in lockdown, almost all of us are desperate to get away. But it's not just Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying we're unlikely to be travelling abroad this summer that has dampened our spirits, it's also the realisation that commercial airlines, and the airports at each end, are unlikely to be particularly safe.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, says that on his flights you’ll be putting up your hand to go to the loo, and everyone will be masked. If these sound like inadequate measures to you, you are not alone. Large hub airports with planes coming in from all over the world and crowded commercial flights are a transmission nightmare.
There is of course an alternative and it’s one a surprising number of people are going to start considering. Especially when they do the maths and realise that as a means of getting to Europe and back, its not as eye-wateringly expensive as you might think.
To give you an idea of price, AirX, one of Europe's largest private jet operators, says chartering a Citation X, one of the fastest private jets out there, which comfortably carries 8 passengers, to take you to Malaga, will cost around £30,000 return in high season, regardless of how many passengers there are. So if there's 8 of you, that's £3,750 per person.
Smaller, slower turbo-prop planes such as the eight-passenger King Air B200, are also likely to see an uptick in interest. With more efficient fuel burn and the ability to get into smaller, cheaper, more under-the-radar European airports, they can offer better value while still delivering the 'private jet' experience. So they might fly out of Shoreham in Sussex, say, and into Cannes Mandelieu or Sion Airport not far from Zermatt in Switzerland, each of which cost about £16,000 for the round trip, or £2,000 per person. For those in the know who can afford it, these will form part of a ‘new normal’ way of elite travelling.
As some who are now flirting with the idea of a private jet trip point out, this is nothing to do with showing off, or one-upmanship. It’s simply a question of getting to your holiday without getting ill.
AirX is now spending an extra £50,000 a month cleaning its fleet. “We have an extensive new deep cleaning process,” says the company's head of marketing, James Collins. “There’s this disinfectant called Bacoban which is the best product for cleaning aircrafts. So now, rather than a sexy picture selling a private jet, clued up clients just want to know their aircraft is being cleaned with Bacoban.”
In the Caribbean, which relies heavily on tourism and where numbers of people infected by the virus have been relatively low, people are definitely thinking outside the box. "We've been approached by a few hotels in the Caribbean who are interested in chartering our biggest private jets (A340s - pictured above) to bring their guests over to them," says James Collins of AirX.
"On these aircrafts, seats are in clusters of two and every one is like First Class. They each carry 100 people and are spacious enough to allow everyone to maintain social distancing. And private terminal to private terminal is a massive selling point. All that should work out at about £5-6,000 per person." This is little more than a First Class return flight to Barbados in July.
Of course, even if you can afford to fly private, it's unlikely to present an attractive proposition if you're required to spend 2 weeks in quarantine at one or both ends of your trip. So, for now, it looks like Brits will be focusing their attention on private flights to either France or Ireland - where no quarantine rules apply.