In Asia, where the outbreak originated, charter companies said the past two months had seen a sustained increase in new customers, as people who fled the virus returned.
With commercial airlines engulfed by the maelstrom of the corona-virus pandemic one sector of the industry favored by the wealthy is thriving: private jets.
Fears of massive bankruptcies and calls for emergency bailouts have swept global carriers in recent days with one top US official warning that the outbreak threatens the industry even more than the September 11 in 2001 attacks.
Across the world airlines have been slashing capacity and passengers canceling travel plans as countries block arrivals to stem the spread of COVID-19.
ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company, estimates as many as 3.3 million seats on transatlantic flights alone are disappearing.
But for Richard Zaher, CEO of a U.S.-based private jet charter company noted that his company Paramount Business Jets had seen a 400% increase in queries, with bookings up roughly 20-25%.
Costs vary hugely depending on the aircraft, region, number of passengers and duration of the flight. A round-trip charter on a 12-seater plane from London to New York can be around $150,000. Meanwhile, Hong Kong (China) to Japan costs around $71,000 one-way. But booking a private flight from the UK to the south of France can set you back just over $10,000.
In Asia, where the outbreak originated, charter companies said the past two months had seen a sustained increase in new customers, as people who fled the virus in January returned in March from places now experiencing their epidemics.
Commercial flights to and from China have dropped by around 90% in the past two months. A spokeswoman for Air Charter Service in Hong Kong told this company had seen a 70% increase in fixed bookings from the financial hub, Shanghai, and Beijing in January and February, and had recorded a 170% jump in new customers during the same period.
Zaher said many new bookings were from clients who had emergencies and either could not find seats on commercial routes or did not want to risk them. Clients were choosing to charter because they did not want to be confined with hundreds of people with “unknown” travel histories,
Moreover, private passengers usually cleared customs and immigration separate from the crowded main airport terminals. Both of these are usually just the perks of flying on a private jet but have become an invaluable advantage to chartering a private jet during these uncertain times. However, Daniel Tang, from Hong Kong-based charter company MayJets said that as more and more countries are tightening up their borders, it will become more and more difficult to fly, even for private jets.