Private jet travel predictions and trends for the year ahead

Under normal circumstances predicting the future for any business should use a mix of past results, present economics, and gut feelings. Unfortunately, over the last 12 months, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of those prediction guidelines have been trashed. For the US aviation and travel industries, sectors like private jet travel are reliant on an ever-evolving travel environment, complicated by a raft of restrictions and regulations which may – along with the possibility of an additional wave of the virus – scuttle any predictions based on past figures, commented Barry Oberholzer, an aviation specialist and helicopter pilot. He has worked for JETT, Base4 Helicopters, and other aviation companies. He attended the American Military University and played professional rugby for the US, participating in two Junior World Championships and represented South Africa’s Western Province. Mr. Oberholzer is an author, entrepreneur, and aviation expert. His father was the former consul–general and head of the Bureau for Information in South Africa, and he was born in Houston, Texas while the family was stationed in the United States.

However, the US private jet sector has already witnessed several encouraging trends which can help us to make more reliably informed private jet predictions for the remainder of 2021. Also, the increased availability of COVID-19 vaccines could be the ultimate game-changer in every sector of aviation.

Making business connections in person

According to an article published in Forbes, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, global business travel was worth an estimated $1.3 trillion per year over the preceding years. With businesses now shying away from the concept of national and international conferences and conventions, private jet charter is being more widely utilized by senior business executives who want to keep their lines of communication open.

Following on from this trend which blossomed in 2020, the demand for private jet charter among business executives wishing to avoid confined spaces and increased risk of infection shows no sign of slowing. The flexibility of private jet charter, which makes arranging meetings in more remote locations or ‘safe cities’, with access to regional or private airfields, is helping to grow the trend even further as the year progresses. 

In line with the  aviation predictions for 2021, private jet charter for business is once again staking claims to being among the largest growth sectors across the industry.

Making business connections in person

Remote working will still be a thing

Even with the growing number of vaccinations being distributed, another relatively safe travel niche prediction for 2021 is that remote working isn’t going anywhere soon. Private jet charter clients have realized that with a good wi-fi connection, and a nearby landing strip, the office can be anywhere they want it to be.

Plus, with a rise in the purchase of second homes in the US – over 10 million people already own second homes in the United Stated – private jets will become a vital link between primary and secondary residences. 

From the rugged Alaskan wilderness to sun-soaked beaches in Key West, the huge availability of smaller airports and private landing strips will continue to drive the popularity of remote working opportunities. 

Are Jet Cards the future of private jet hire?

Another prediction for 2021 is the popularity of jet cards. A jet card is a debit card-style program allowing the owner to prepay for private jet flights at a fixed hourly rate. 

According to Private Jet Card Comparisons, there are already more than 50 companies selling private jet cards – or prepaid charter programs, offering similar benefits. 

Starting at approximately $25,000, jet card programs can run to as much as $1 million, depending on the individual or the organization. Private air charter remains the best ‘on demand’ option for most travelers. With a global choice of available aircraft, including turboprop models, mid-size and wide body jets for groups. Using an air charter broker is the least hassle and  for most, the best return on investment. There is full flexibility, no long-term commitment and none of the maintenance headache of jet ownership. 

Smaller aircraft with big scope

Another predicted private travel trend for 2021 is the growing demand for purchasing entry-level or smaller aircraft. While larger jet aircraft may be a good fit for some individuals or organizations, turboprop, and smaller aircraft can fill the needs of many who want to taste the benefits of flying privately and have the means to maintain the aircraft and hire crew long term.  For shorter routes and less elaborately equipped airfields, smaller aircraft may even prove the advantage of reaching more remote and less well-serviced destinations.

Smaller aircraft with big scope

Changes in popular travel destinations

With changes in how we plan to travel in the future, there are sure to be both winners and losers. One of the 2021 private jet predictions is the rise in rural tourism and the role that private jet hire has to play. Already, California’s Napa Valley has opened its doors to private jet wine tourism, fully aware that many travelers are shunning the region’s big cities, Napa Valley and other enterprising locations are exploring the underutilized amenities that already exist on their doorsteps.

As the COVID-19 situation improves, the traditional theme park and beach destinations will once again return to their former popularity. But for now, destinations accessible by private jet are steadily gaining in popularity. From hiking trips in the mountains, to farm stays and cultural activities, many destinations once considered too remote have become the 

The rise of Bleisure travel

The term Bleisure travel has been coined to describe the practice of combining both business and pleasure and is tipped to become another one of the hot private jet travel predictions for the coming year. As a practice being promoted across multiple sectors from large corporations, individuals, and government organizations, private jet charter and bleisure travel offer the opportunity for executives to combine deal-sealing business trips with some well-deserved leisure time in a safe environment.

Thanks to the growing availability of private jet charter, bleisure travel is seen as a new form of incentive for executives, sales teams, partners, and clients to cement relationships, along with being a tool for positive team-building. Another feature of bleisure which is finding favor is the opportunity to incorporate multiple legs into the travel itinerary. This multiple-leg option will open up the possibilities of offering different activities in different locations, and including more members of a team or an organization.

The rise of Bleisure travel

What’s in store for private jets 

Electric-/Hybrid-powered flight – The idea of electric- or hybrid-powered aircraft is slowly becoming a reality – even during a global pandemic. Even though electrically-powered aircraft have been around for some time, it is only now that real strides are being made in the direction of commercial electric-/hybrid-powered flight. Many major aerospace companies have already committed to the development of future electric-powered flights – Airbus, Ampaire, Eviation, and MagniX – and are already seeking certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. It may take some time before we see electric- or hybrid-powered aircraft regularly taking to the skies, but that day is drawing closer all the time.

Sustainability – Sustainability is fast becoming a core value for every successful aviation business. The challenge to reduce emissions and combat climate change is no longer a vague idea, it has become a working reality. From better MRO material management, efficient fuel-consuming engines, to carbon offsetting, every sector of the aviation industry is doing its bit. Practices are changing, and sustainability is now a contributing sales factor in every sector of the industry. 

Health and sanitation – There are no elements of the flying experience that have seen greater changes than in the procedures surrounding health and sanitation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new measures have been introduced into every aspect of the private jet business. With new advances in screening, personal interactions, aircraft cleansing, and better and safer ways of doing things, flying is set to become substantially safer. While many countries are still considering the viable use of COVID-19 travel passports the sector is bound to witness many more positive changes as the year progresses.

More documentation – With the possibility of a huge surge in the demand for travel due to the vaccine roll-outs, there is likely to be a greater need for proper procedures influencing future travel plans and the submission of documents. The need to present negative test results, evidence of past infection, or inoculation may give rise to more documentation (or e-services) covering every step of the flight process, from booking to boarding.

Larger jet fleets – With the ongoing pandemic causing disruption and change in the private jet travel sector there is likely to be a large increase in the numbers of mergers and acquisitions. This coming together of businesses, to ensure their survival, is likely to lead to the evolution of what has become known as mega fleets. What this will mean for the consumer has yet to be explored.

Travel demand – Once vaccination programs have been fully rolled out we can expect to see an upsurge in demand for private jet travel, most likely coming in 2021 Qs 3 and 4. Plus, if travel passports are finally green-lighted, large events like conventions and exhibitions will begin to attract visitors in growing numbers. Businesses will want to be quick off the mark and be first to have representation at such events, meaning a greater demand for moving executives and employees quickly and safely.

The future

It’s likely that business travel will bounce back significantly in  the last quarter of 2021. However, as more and more large gatherings are permitted, the demand may be swift and unprecedented. Businesses that have saved on travel expenses during the pandemic will be more likely to employ private jet charter services to have their presence felt on the ground, and in-person once again.