The private jet sector, like all aviation and most of society, has been rocked by the pandemic. The closing of national borders has disrupted the transportation industry most of all. Since March, as with the major airlines, private jet businesses have been helping with the repatriation efforts. There was much need to bring families back home from holiday and businesspeople back to base. At a time of such fear and uncertainty, this was an essential service.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the private jet companies. Private aviation could have an opportunity to step up and offer a lifeline for those who must fly but want to avoid social interaction and potential infection with the virus. But, is private flight any safer in the time of a pandemic? Here we explore what it would be like to take a private plane in the time of COVID-19.
Getting to the airport
Obviously, the private flight would not be practical if you have to travel a great distance to the airport. Fortunately, most jets flight from regional hubs, so you can quickly get a car transfer to the airport. This car journey will allow passengers to stay within the family group that they have been isolating with or with a group less than 6, which most guidance suggests should keep you relatively free from risk.
If you do travel in a car with others, it is probably best to fit yourself out with gloves and masks and make sure the interior of the vehicle is thoroughly cleaned before people get in. It is better to overdo the precautions than to regret any shortcuts.
Again, once landed, the frequency of airports available as hubs for private flights makes is reasonable to drive to your final destination. Also, you can limit your contact with others before getting to your venue. In countries where you may be expected to quarantine on arrival, you can be sure to get to the private dwelling without risking the local population.
Arriving at the airport
What probably separates private flight most from airline travel is the experience at the airport. Rather than having to pass through a busy terminal, you will instead arrive at the FBO (Fixed Based Operator) which will be separate from the main facilities. You will only need to arrive 15 minutes before your departure, as to the many hours for normal flying. The security checks are quick and efficient and easy to minimise contact with other individuals.
You will find that all the staff at the FBO will be equipped with masks and gloves and will continuously be encouraged to use sanitising gel. The interactions with staff will be kept to a minimum, and it is unlikely you will be offered refreshments from a lounge or café area. You just need to be prepared for the fact that you will need your drinks in your containers.
Onboard the plane
It goes without saying that you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of strangers on a private jet. Although many airlines are exploring how they can seat people every other seat, there will still be a lot of people breathing the same recycled air. As many aviation experts have noted, social distancing on an airline is improbable.
Obviously, on a private jet, you will remain with the same party of people. Usually, the captain and crew would meet you with a handshake in the FBO lobby. This has been eliminated in this time of the pandemic. They will come to greet you with a social distanced hello instead, as you still deserve to feel special. The crew will also wear masks and stay as distant as is possible while servicing your needs. Meals are prepared by a chef and transported to the plane with limited contact with any other people on-route.
You can make a private flight more affordable by matching up with other people who need to make the same journey. You can be confident that these people who share the trip with you have a proven negative test result for the virus. The more people on board, the more the private jet will offer some of the same threats as an airline. However, it is always within your control.
The private jet company has a responsibility to make sure that your flight is as risk-free as possible. They are likely to take this responsibility seriously, as they will want to maintain the opportunity, they have available to them.
Consequently, when a flight is completed there will be rigorous cleaning and disinfecting. The jet will be thoroughly wiped down and vacuumed before any new passengers are allowed on board. Some companies have been treating their entire fleet with an antimicrobial protective coating.
A threat becomes an opportunity
As with other forms of travel, the smaller the number of people you share the space with the lesser the risk. Why would you take the underground at this time? But you might be happy to call for a taxi. Equally, you may struggle to believe it is safe to board a mass transit aeroplane with any certainty of safety. Consequently, this time of COVID-19 offers private jet companies a distinct opportunity to become the only logical choice for flight.