Since the onset of the pandemic, private aviation has seen a historic increase in usage in the United States, but the worldwide trend is equally impressive. Hong Kong, for instance, has had some of the world’s strictest COVID policies. These policies are leaving non-residents barred from entering the city, while residents who have gotten out face 3-week quarantines in expensive state-run hotels upon their return. The situation has gotten to the point where as many as 40% of the expats residing there are moving or looking to move away from the financial hub. This exodus has created a fascinating market for private air carriers in the region, and the clients and passengers are not who you would expect.
CNN recently reported that as residents are making the move to cities with less stringent policies, they’re finding it next to impossible to secure commercial flights for their dogs and cats. This dilemma has led to the creation of online chat groups, consisting not of the wealthy but rather of working-class people who are pooling their money to charter flights for their furry loved ones. Top Star Air, a private aviation company based in Hong Kong, is reporting that they have actually moved aircraft away from private executive travel toward this new pet group rental which has seen a 700% increase since the start of the pandemic.
Further south in Australia, Euro News reports that with many commercial planes grounded , private aviation companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find new aircraft to meet the demand of customers. This is in no small part due to the increase in worldwide private charter demand, which Germany’s data research company, WingX, reported in November was up 60% from the year prior. This boom in the private aviation market paints quite the contrast to commercial aviation which has seen around 2.2 billion less passengers in the last year, as noted by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization. Even the cargo industry is going private. XPO, a global leader in worldwide logistics, recently published a piece that tells of freight forwarders “doubling down” on private jet charter flights, to move shipments of goods more expeditiously around the globe.
Wherever you turn, the stories of the “mainstreaming” of private aviation are abundant. No longer is this mode of air travel being geared exclusively for the very wealthy, as the term “private” is now sharing the stage with “semi-private” and “shared private” amongst others. Globally, creative aviation entrepreneurs are coming up with new ways to lower prices and augment services in an attempt to attract more and more working-class passengers in what is becoming a paradigm shift in the aviation industry. Some even cite studies that show private flights have almost 700 fewer “touchpoints” than commercial flying.
The mainstreaming of private aviation is a worldwide trend with worldwide opportunities. The catalyst was the pandemic. It exposed the soft white underbelly of commercial aviation, and many passengers and businesses may be making the change to private for good.