Since the pandemic began, many affluent business and leisure travelers are forgoing their elite status with commercial airlines to charter private jets.
Why the change in travel preference?
Flying first-class commercially doesn’t offer all of the same perks and privileges that it once did. COVID-19 is reshaping the aviation industry, perhaps forever.
Elite Jets is noting a substantial jump in first-time private travelers, and after their first flight, many of them say the same thing: Why didn’t I make the switch sooner?
Below are eight ways that private air travel measures up favorably against first-class commercial travel:
First-class commercial: Hot towels, pillows and blankets have all but disappeared. Many airport lounges have closed. Magazines and newspapers are no longer being brought on board. In-flight meals are only served on longer-haul flights.
Private: Elite Jets passengers enjoy high-speed Wi-Fi, personalized temperature controls, recliner-like leather massaging seats, pre-flight meal and snack selections, a fully stocked bar and a digital entertainment system to watch movies, TV shows and news. Personal cabin attendants are available. Elite Jets can even pick up and drop off passengers at their homes or local hotels in the company’s Tesla, just one of the company’s White Diamond Services. And for pet-lovers, dogs and cats are still welcome on board.
First-class commercial: Most airlines follow a similar boarding process, starting with active duty military, families traveling with small children, passengers needing extra assistance and first-class passengers. Boarding generally begins 30 to 50 minutes before departure, so first-class passengers are waiting the entire time, all while 100 or more people stream by looking for their seats.
Private: Every passenger at Elite Jets has priority boarding. Minutes after buckling their seat belt, their jet is in the air and en route to its final destination.
First-class commercial: TSA PreCheck, available for an added fee, expedites passengers through security, but all travelers and their belongings still must undergo the standard screenings.
Private: Passengers can walk from Elite Jets’ private terminal at Naples Airport, or directly from their vehicles, onto the tarmac and into a waiting jet. They don’t need to remove their belt or shoes, throw away their bottles of water or limit shampoo to a 3.4-ounce container.
First-class commercial: Airlines have enhanced their cleaning procedures and implemented policies requiring staff and passengers to wear protective face masks. With tight turnaround times between flights, though, cleaning crews can only do so much.
Private: Elite Jets’ COVID-19 Response Plan includes a MicroShield 360 fogging disinfection process that kills 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and allergens in addition to using EPA-approved disinfectants to clean arm rests, tray tables, seatbelts, window shades and lavatories after each flight.
First-class commercial: Airlines responded to declining demand by consolidating routes. In some cases, they’re offering just a single flight per day, or every other day, between destinations. Connection times also vary widely, with some published domestic fares now requiring overnight stops.
Private: Departure times are set by you, the passenger. All domestic routes are nonstop, as well as many destinations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
First-class commercial: Airlines have furloughed and laid off tens of thousands of workers, including pilots and flight attendants, in response to lower passenger counts. Many will not return. As the flying public grows more comfortable with air travel, airlines may struggle to find qualified, experienced crew members.
Private: As Aviation International News recently noted, Elite Jets has added new captains and first officers to accommodate increased demand. Jets are operating more routes daily, requiring a larger staff on the ground and in the air.
First-class commercial: Theme parks offer VIP or preferred parking for those willing to pay a little extra in exchange for a shorter walk, but airport parking remains a first-come, first-served experience.
Private: Parking at private airports is ample and oftentimes free. Elite Jets offers secure private parking for passengers, including indoor hangar space and auto-detailing upon request.
First-class commercial: Despite Florida’s vast size, there are only 20 airports with regular commercial flights in cities like Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Commercial aircraft need larger runways, generally around 2 miles in length, so commercial airports usually are outside of city limits.
Private: Smaller jets do not need expansive landing strips, allowing the aircraft to fly into reliever and general aviation airports like Naples Airport and Page Field in Fort Myers. This helps transport passengers closer to their final destinations.