Wealthy people in England were booking private jets to escape the lockdown set to be introduced on Thursday, according to jet brokers.
Air Partner, one of the biggest aircraft charter firms, said there had been a “sharp rise” in private jet bookings “out of the country before Thursday”, as people look to avoid the lockdown and instead spend the time overseas.
The company, which supplies planes to Premier League footballers, celebrities, the royal family and six out of the eight governments in the G8, said it had been overwhelmed with enquiries from wealthy people seeking to escape the UK for second homes overseas.
"Many of these flight enquiries are for individuals wishing to go to their second homes in Europe, with the Canary Islands, which are still warm at this time of year, being the most sought-after destination,” the company said in a statement. “We do expect to continue to see some demand for private jet flights during the rest of the month for business travel, particularly as many commercial flights become grounded and unavailable.”
The new lockdown in England, which has come into force on Thursday, will ban residents in England from travelling abroad except for essential work until at least 2 December.
Commercial airlines have dramatically reduced their flight schedules in anticipation of an even greater fall in demand for international travel, which has been moribund since the pandemic began.
moribund [ˈmɔːrɪbʌnd]: adj. 垂死的；停滞不前的
However, private jet operators have reported a much smaller decline in bookings. The operators say this is because the richest of the rich have continued to travel as much as before. In addition, more moderately wealthy people are seeking out private jets as they view it as a safer way to travel during the pandemic because it avoids potentially crowded commercial planes and airport terminals.
Private jet operators also reported a rise in bookings ahead of the first UK-wide lockdown in March. Private jet companies also marketed “evacuation flights” out of countries badly hit by the virus.
The number of private flights dipped by just 10% between 1 September and 15 October compared with last year, according to aviation consultancy WINGX. That compares to a more than 50% drop in scheduled commercial flights.
Richard Koe, managing director of WINGX said: “The advantages of flying private, notably hygiene-control and convenience, should continue to draw some customers from the airlines.”
Oliver Stone, managing director of private jet brokerage firm Colibri Aircraft, said: “Covid-19 has also resulted in an increase in enquiries from potential first-time buyers of business aircraft as the crisis has helped raise the profile and benefits of flying privately amongst those who can afford to do this.
"For many business owners and executives, travel is a necessary component to keep their business running. The use of private aviation is now often the only way to continue to travel and keep their companies operational.”
Private jets emit about 20 times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than commercial flights, according to industry data.