Private Jet Shortages
There have been many effects of COVID but one of the more surprising results of the pandemic has been the astronomically increasing demand in the private aviation industry. From private personal travel to life-saving missions, private aviation is seeing a major shortage of aircraft while experiencing incredibly high demand. This has caused consumers who had grown used to a surplus of aircraft to choose from to finding little availability, if any availability, particularly on peak travel days.
According to a McKinsey analysis, Pre-COVID the entire private aviation industry in the United States served roughly 100,000 households. Once covid struck and commercial airlines were seen as potential infection risks, many households who had the wealth to fly private but never or rarely flew private, began to look away from commercial air travel. A new pool of one million private fliers is outpacing the private aircraft industry’s ability to meet demand. Roughly 2000 operators in the US have found themselves flying for what could be ten times or more its usual level. Some of the largest operations have even stopped allowing new clients to sign on.
Even with the airlines recalling furloughed pilots, it doesn’t seem like commercial demand will return to Pre-COVID levels, particularly for wealthy families and large corporate flight departments. While restrictions have started to lift, the crisis is well from over for many people. In addition, private aviation is a very “sticky” product. After experiencing aviation travel without the aggravations of commercial flying, many new private fliers will not want to go back to security lines and packed aircraft.
What does this mean for the future of private aviation? The simple answer seems to be more airplanes to meet the needs of more fliers. However, it’s not so easy. In the best of times, air crew labor shortages make crewing planes hard, and once hired, training can take months. That cannot happen overnight, taking years of work for new pilots. Plane manufacturers also take time to make new planes, with many having slowed down production prior to and during COVID, which will take time to bring back to full production. The market will adjust itself to the new level of demand in time, but it is unlikely to become easier to find planes in the short run.
Especially for short notice medical missions that may only have hours of notice. In those cases, the only option is to expand the search to operators and brokers that were not considered before or even to other aircraft such as helicopters for shorter flights, or larger aircraft when necessary.
This increase in demand and, more importantly, lack of supply will push the market to evolve quickly. For medical flights, that could mean fliers looking at owned or exclusive-use aircraft to supply transportation rather than the charter flights they were able to arrange before.
What are your thoughts about the new normal in aviation and how the market will adapt to meet the changing landscape?