As the Coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, leads to large-scale cancellations of vacations, school, conferences, and sporting events, a number of businesses are wondering how best to continue, while ensuring the safety of their employees. The privacy offered by private jets can be just the solution to some who still need to travel but wish to avoid crowds as much as possible.

We reached out to a few aviation providers to learn more about how they are handling operations in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

From a health and safety perspective, private aviation offers many benefits over commercial flight. You control how many flight companions you have so there is a highly reduced risk of airborne transmission from a fellow traveler. And since the planes often leave from their own private terminals, you also do not risk exposure in an overcrowded commercial airport lounge. You go through security more quickly and have no lengthy waits in line, either to check-in or to board. These conveniences are now becoming all the more attractive for health reasons.

Earlier on in the crisis, private jet and global charter provider Air Partner worked with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to evacuate British and EU nationals from Wuhan, China, and later to evacuate British and Irish nationals from the quarantined cruise ship in Japan. UK government medical professionals were also on-board the aircraft to assist the passengers and crew during the flight.

Air Partner said that they are working closely with all of their charter providers to make sure that every aircraft undergoes deep cleaning before each use. All crew members are fully briefed in hygiene precautions and additional hygiene products are available on each flight. They are also in constant communication with airports, cargo handlers, and other suppliers to guarantee security and speedy service for their clients.

Likewise, NetJets is emphasizing their commitment to the health and well-being of all owners and employees. The company notes, “In accordance with the U.S. Department of State, we have restricted travel to areas impacted by COVID-19." If any aircraft has been exposed to a person known or suspected to have the coronavirus, the aircraft will immediately be removed from service, pending deep cleaning by a qualified team.

At the time of writing NetJets was saying “We currently prohibit travel to mainland China, South Korea, and Italy.” It also states that “NetJets will follow the guidance of the CDC and prohibit operations to countries it deems unsafe, allowing emergency travel on a case-by-case basis following a proper risk assessment by the vice president of flight operations and vice president of safety.” And is advising nonessential travel should be avoided for many European countries. Clearly this situation is fluid and may change at any time.

Global private aviation company VistaJet stated that all their crews are checked for signs of the virus twice a day and each VistaJet aircraft is sanitized after every flight. As a precautionary measure, should authorities determine that a COVID-19 carrier traveled on a VistaJet aircraft, that tail and crew will be temporarily withdrawn from use.

Jet Linx, a leading jet management company, said that it began applying the BIOPROTECTUs System to disinfect and protect its fleet of 112 jet aircraft, private Base terminals and facilities throughout the United States. This system disinfects and inhibits the growth and spread of bacteria, fungi, algae, mold and viruses as well as provides long-term antimicrobial protection for 90-days. ""The health, well being and safety of our clients, flight crews and ground personnel is our utmost priority, and that is why we made the decision to treat all our Jet Linx aircraft and facilities," said Jamie Walker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jet Linx.

NetJets, Air Partner, VistaJet, Jet Linx and other providers are updating their information regularly as circumstances change.

Other Reasons to Use a Private Jet

The current Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the health-related reasons to opt for flying by private jet. However, there are other benefits too. So if you are considering private aviation for the first time, below are some additional tips to help you get started.

We have mentioned how the avoidance of long check-in processes and security lines cuts down your risk of contracting the virus, but it has another major benefit. By being able to arrive at the airport just minutes before your departure, you can easily save a few hours. And you’ll probably save time upon arrival as well, with no waits at the luggage carousel. Simply deplane and be on your way. Booking is much more flexible than commercial flights, with potentially as little as a few hours needed between booking to departure. The plane won’t depart without you, and once onboard you can enjoy comfort, legroom, and the space to relax or work. This earlier article has a fuller description of the reasons to fly on private aircraft.

Types of Aircraft

The type of aircraft you need will depend on the number of people flying, distance traveled, cargo, and budget. Private aviation staff can help you book the aircraft that meets your needs most closely. Options include:

  • Turboprop. Turboprops are the cheapest type of aircraft because they travel at lower speeds. These can be ideal for smaller groups flying just a short distance. 
  • Light jet. With space for up to 9 passengers and their luggage, these can have a range up to 1,700nm with the size that allows them to access smaller airfields.
  • Mid-size jet. These typically have a slightly larger passenger and cargo capacity than a light jet, but with a longer flight range, often up to 7 hours of flight time.
  • Super mid-size jets. These aircraft’s longer range makes transcontinental trips possible without having to stop and refuel.
  • Heavy jets. For larger groups (up to 18 passengers) or those needing to fly globally, heavy jets are the most suitable option. They are also the most expensive.

Ways to Fly

  • Charter. Charter flights are a cost-effective way to fly privately if you only need to fly once, or if you want a taster before committing to something longterm. Pay for what you need when you need it.
  • Jet cards. Jet cards offer the chance to prepay for a set number of flight hours based upon your aircraft needs. They are useful for those who fly occasionally but not enough to merit ownership.
  • Fractional aircraft ownership. As the name suggests, this option buys you a share in an aircraft and provides tax benefits, without the hassle and expense of maintenance. Monthly fees are also charged to cover ongoing costs.
  • Outright ownership. For companies or individuals who travel on a frequent basis, ownership may make economic sense. Many additional expenses need to be factored in, including storage, maintenance, crew, and so on. A broker can assist you with such a purchase.

Cost

Costs will vary widely, depending on the flight option you choose. Chartering can range from $1,500 per hour for a small turboprop to more than $12,000 per hour for a heavy jet. Jet cards require one upfront payment  and additional surcharges may be charged at peak times. Ownership has a larger up front cost with a 1/16 fraction of a jet starting at perhaps $625,000 plus monthly expenses of $7,000. Buying outright could cost anywhere from under $1 million, for an older plane, to over $60m for a new heavy jet, plus an estimated $1 million per year in associated operating expenses.

Where Can You Fly?

Flying commercially in the United States offers access to roughly 500 airports. In contrast, private aircraft can fly out of and into some 5,000 airports and airstrips across the country. You may also have access to destinations elsewhere in North America or even globally. SherpaReport offers a searchable database of all US commercial and private airports and helipads.