COVID-19 might have grounded a significant number of commercial flights, but private jet travel is booming in comparison with operators reporting a much smaller decline in bookings.
Prior to this new paradigm, concerns about sustainability and image protection would have deterred about 9 out of 10 of those who could afford it from flying private, according to a study by McKinsey.
These concerns, however, seem to have taken a backseat to COVID-related worries.
With fewer passengers and quieter airport terminals, private aviation may offer an appealing prospect during a pandemic. Jet companies such as PrivateFly and GlobeAir are among those to have reported a flurry of bookings once lockdowns began. In order to limit the perceived risks and stress involved with traveling during a pandemic, passengers are keener than ever to create an environment where they can have more comfort, certainty, and private space.
However, private jet operators are not the only premium providers who can benefit from this shift in customer preference – the luxury travel industry as a whole is well-positioned to respond to the inclination towards higher levels of hygiene, comfort and service.
The surge in demand for private flying signals a desire on the part of the passenger to exert more control over their travel experience. Discerning affluent travelers are understandably expecting stronger assurances than usual that their journey will be as seamless as possible. That every step will be curated with attention to detail - and prioritize safety and convenience.
Luxury providers already rely on these thoughtful, personal touches to set themselves apart from mid-tier operators. By utilizing this “human touch” element, and ensuring customers actually enjoy their travel experience, luxury providers are in a strong position to respond to customer needs during the pandemic.
This is already being seen in hospitality, where luxury hotels are increasingly introducing measures to reassure their clients. From the Ritz-Carlton installing plasma air technology to neutralize airborne viruses, to St James’ Hotel offering guests branded PPE packs, a number of luxury hoteliers are adapting to the crisis and introducing strategies to support their customers.
Technology will also play a major role. No-touch passenger identification and other touchless self-service, bespoke options also minimize the friction of physical touchpoints. These technologies and services not only help address the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic, but can create better and more stress-free, seamless experiences in the longer term.
The pent-up demand for travel is clearly there. Over 3 out of 5 affluent travelers internationally are “dreaming” about the prospect of traveling, according to a recent study. This is particularly important ahead of the festive season in the UK and Europe, when some of this demand is expected to manifest particularly across countries forming “travel corridors”.
Peak travel periods, according to AAA findings, tend to be around two to three days before Christmas. This is, of course, far from a regular year. But given that stringent restrictions are expected to be eased in the UK and most of Europe, luxury travel providers would do well to prepare for an uptick in demand.
This has been front of mind for Wheely, as part of its seamless airport experience which has been woven into its premium ride-hailing chauffeur service. Once restrictions have been lifted, passengers will simply need to enter their flight number light number and departure date to book a transfer from the airport into the city. Wheely will automatically find the correct airport and terminal, while flight tracking means a chauffeur will be waiting in Arrivals, regardless of changes to landing time.
Whilst COVID-19 undoubtedly poses challenges for the travel industry, luxury providers are well-placed to offer customers the comfort, certainty, and seamlessness they expect. This attention to detail should be apparent every step of the way from the plane to the airport to the end destination this holiday season, ensuring the highest levels of privacy and safety.