Afraid of Airlines? There’s Always the Private Jet

“With virtually no business travel, the rebound was fueled by existing customers flying for personal reasons and newcomers to the market,” Mr. Gollan said. “Private flying isn’t fully back, but certainly the industry is in much better shape than airlines. There is a strong flow of new-to-private-aviation customers.”

XO, which offers both private charters and the ability to book individual seats on private jets, saw a 19.8 percent decrease in hours flown in the first half of 2020 versus the first half of 2019, according to Argus data. But the company said monthly membership sales between March and May 2020 among first-time private jet fliers averaged five times higher than their monthly averages.

Two other companies have also seen increased interest. Sentient Jet[1] said more than 50 percent of the 8,000 flight hours in June were sold to first-time customers, up from about 25 to 30 percent in most months. And Air Charter Service[2] said in a press release that in May and June, it saw a 75 percent increase in year-over-year inquiries from potential customers.

The trend looks likely to continue as commercial air travel may only become more painful. JetBlue is blocking middle seats through at least Sept. 8 and Southwest Airlines is doing the same through at least Oct. 31 — but it’s unclear what happens after that. Luxuries like airport lounges are closed with no indication when they’ll reopen. And passengers report flights being canceled at the last minute[3].

Ms. Gibson said in addition to families and friends on vacation, she’s recently flown students who needed to return from college or boarding schools and older passengers who feel especially at risk flying commercial airlines. And as airlines cut back on international flights in response to countries closing their borders[4] to some foreigners, including Americans, she’s also flying a number of repatriation trips.

Private jet travel allows citizens of other countries to find a way home. For repatriation flights from the United States to a country where travel is restricted to citizens only, the plane can land, but Ms. Gibson and her crewmates can’t set foot on foreign land. The passenger departs, and the crew immediately leaves the country. It is not advised to use a private jet to skirt entry restrictions — just look at the five American travelers who chartered a private jet to Sardinia[5], but were turned away upon arrival.

Even dogs are flying on chartered planes. Elsa Chen, a Bernedoodle puppy, was purchased by her owners through a website called PuppySpot[6]. They paid the company’s standard flat rate of $799 to send dogs via air cargo. But when Elsa’s American Airlines flight from Chicago O’Hare to San Francisco was canceled last month and could not be rebooked for several days, PuppySpot rebooked Elsa on a private jet and had her arrive in San Francisco nearly on schedule. As a result, PuppySpot is now flying all of its dogs on private planes.


  1. ^ Sentient Jet (
  2. ^ Air Charter Service (
  3. ^ flights being canceled at the last minute (
  4. ^ countries closing their borders (
  5. ^ five American travelers who chartered a private jet to Sardinia (
  6. ^ PuppySpot (
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