The private jet industry is booming and yet private jet operators are struggling to keep up with demand.
Limited commercial flights during the pandemic are now in total chaos (i.e. 10,000 flights delayed in one day). Demand for private air travel has soared, but supply is trapped by the same geopolitical uncertainty and logistical issues, and it is uncertain whether private air travel can keep up.
While scheduled air traffic is still down 23% from pre-pandemic figures, research consultancy WINGX found that business aviation flights are up 25% from US figures as of June 2019, while in the UK charter flights are up 27% from 2019. There are competing interests in these private flights between luxury travelers and the ultra wealthy who can afford to buy their own private jets.
Since March 2021, the world’s 2,755 billionaires have seen their combined wealth swell by $5 trillion to $13.4 trillion, Forbes found in an Oxfam International survey analysis in January. Private luxury saw billionaires carrying that wealth stifle the market, leaving just 3.1% of the global fleet available at the end of February. This is the lowest level recorded in more than 25 years, according to market data firm JetNet IQ.
Meanwhile, the FAA reports that the use of business jets has increased by 23% since March 2021. While leisure travel is on the rise, the Institute of Travel Management’s latest survey of European buyers revealed that corporate buyers do not expect business travel to return to the pre-pandemic era. levels, especially in times of inflation. Adding to a daily glut of flight delays and cancellations, distrust of potential exposure to COVID-19 and monkeypox are supply chain issues. Companies desperate for air travel are only pointing out that private jet makers face serious storm clouds on the horizon.
Updates from May’s Business Aviation Conference and Expo read like the flood of injuries affecting Major League Baseball. VistaJet’s plans to refurbish its fleet by the end of 2022 have now been pushed back to the end of 2024, chief commercial officer Ian Moore said. Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said certification slowdowns would delay the Falcon 6X until 2023. Gulfstream Aerospace President Mark Burns said the FAA was taking its time approving new aircraft software. aircraft following the Boeing Max accidents. CEO Michael Amalfitano said production of Embraer Executive Jets was suffering from a shortage of computer chips.
Private aviation companies are trying to keep up – buying jets, hiring pilots and even buying competitors at record clips – but stubborn supply shortages aren’t keeping up with demand. Consequently, booking travel with private airlines is less selective and more expensive for consumers. Flights for non-members are becoming scarce day by day, as seats are reserved for fractional and jet cardholders.
Private airlines that want to buy other aircraft must either buy them second-hand from competitors or compete with private buyers. Airport maintenance shops across the country are at mandatory capacity, delaying maintenance. Kerosene prices remain exorbitant, pushing prices to record highs.
“The signals of business jet demand – sales, prices and strong order books – are as clear as the beep-beep-beep radio pulses from Sputnik. Our industry is struggling to keep up with demand and rapidly ramp up production of new aircraft,” said Rollie Vincent, creator and director of JetNet iQ, in a forecast.
Aviation industry experts vary widely in their opinions on whether the private airline industry can sustain such a sudden appetite for private air travel. In a strange and tense time, celebratory news is often quickly contradicted by global realities brought about by pandemic tensions and ongoing armed conflict. Although the answer might seem obvious in a sane world, these are shaky times.