August 15, 2020

Afraid of Airlines? There’s Always the Private Jet

“Flying private is much safer, and consistently so,” said Sridhar Tayur, founder of OrganJet, a company that provides private jet travel for organ-transplant patients. “Social distancing is easier. The pilots wear masks. The passengers — usually a small number — know each other.”

The major drawback for many travelers is, of course, the cost. A one-way charter flight between New York and Miami with the private jet company Silver Air costs between $15,000 and $20,000 for the entire aircraft, depending on the jet (their planes seat between four and 10). Bring nine friends, and that still amounts to a few thousand dollars per person each way — significantly more than the cost of your average first-class ticket, and far more than the price of a basic economy seat. Another company, Jet It, charges $4,200 per hour (though purchasing a membership reduces the per-hour rate to $1,600), not including airport fees. Their HondaJet Elite aircraft seats six.

To reduce the price of the $8,000-to-$10,000-per-hour flight, Jamie Gibson, the founder of the website Flightess and a high-end charter flight attendant, says more groups of first-time fliers are chartering planes with friends and family, and thus reducing the per-person cost. Prepandemic, her regular clients were executives who tended to travel alone. The cost is further reduced by the CARES Act tax break. Private jet customers aren’t required to pay the 7.5 percent Federal Excise Tax between March 28 and Dec. 31, 2020, which is typically charged on all private jet flights and hours. Additionally, companies don’t have to pay any fuel taxes during that period, which is one less cost they would otherwise pass onto consumers.

While commercial air travel is getting pummeled, private jet travel has not been hit nearly as hard, said Mr. Gollan.

In April, passenger count on commercial airlines fell 95 percent year-over-year, while passenger count on private jet charters was down 67 percent, according to Mr. Gollan’s analysis of Argus’s data. By June, private jet operators saw just a 22 percent decrease.

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