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More mergers into larger fleets could be on the horizon
Remote working, less spontaneous travel and smaller aircraft - including electric - will be important aspects of business aviation in the coming year. Mergers and acquisitions could lead to 'mega fleets'.
Though times are tough right now, Adam Twidell is optimistic for the year as a whole.

The COVID-19 pandemic is set to be a major catalyst for change and disruption in private jet travel, says Private jet provider PrivateFly as it looks ahead to 2021. CEO Adam Twidell believes 2021 will be the year of private jet membership programmes, growing momentum in electric aircraft development and the impact of the move to remote working on travel patterns.

The predictions follow PrivateFly's release of its annual Private Jet Charter Trends report for 2020, which reflected a strong year for the private jet travel provider and revealed it is optimistic for continued growth in 2021, as the increased demand for private jet travel continues.

Twidell says: “As we begin 2021, lockdowns and travel restrictions continue to cause challenges and dampen activity in some areas, but I am optimistic about the year ahead. The factors that led to a demand increase for private aviation last year are continuing: travellers are looking to avoid shared or crowded spaces and to fill the gaps left by commercial airline disruption. In the next few months our industry will continue to appeal for these reasons, while evolving its offering for the longer term in a number of ways.”

The PrivateFly CEO has detected nine key trends for coming 12 months:

More remote working will change route patterns: The trend of working from home, or anywhere with good WiFi, looks set to continue. Twidell says PrivateFly has already seen clients spending longer periods of time in traditional summer destinations such as Ibiza or Faro, as they work from a second home. This blurring of work and leisure time will also impact routes and destinations. In recent months, Nice has been more popular than Paris, and the CEO believes this type of shift is likely to be even more significant in 2021.

Business travel will take time to return: Twidell believes business travel will not start to bounce back until at least the fourth quarter. Major events and conferences that drive corporate travel are also unlikely to go ahead or will only take place virtually. However, with firms avoiding liability for unnecessary travel, PrivateFly expects private aviation will be utilised by more businesses for transporting executives and other essential staff.

Rise of private jet membership programmes in Europe: While the jet card market is more developed in the US, with PrivateFly's sister company Sentient Jet being the market leader, products like PrivateFly's highly-competitive PrivateFly jet card are set to gain traction in the European market as frequent flyers increasingly switch from airlines to private jets for added convenience, service and consistency when travelling with their family or bubble.

More responsible and thoughtful travel: As we rebuild from the pandemic, Twidell expects private jet companies will put sustainability front and centre of their proposition, and customers will increasingly demand sustainable travel options. Through working with 4AIR, a rating system for sustainability for aviation companies, PrivateFly is committed to a long-term sustainability programme, including a 300 per cent carbon offset as standard for every flight at no extra cost.

Electric aircraft progress will accelerate: PrivateFly also expects the powering towards developing electric aircraft will shift up a gear in 2021. Twidell says private aviation is well-placed to lead the rest of the aviation industry in this area and is hopeful that some of the leading concepts will take major steps forward in the coming months.

Changes in travel behaviours and priorities: While people are likely to travel less than before, travellers will seek to make their trips count more, with longer and once-in-a-lifetime trips and premium travel experiences on the agenda for private jet users, including multi-leg itineraries. PrivateFly says less-crowded, remote destinations will continue to prevail over crowded cities, while hygiene and health will remain top priorities, even after the risks from COVID-19 have subsided.

Less spontaneous travel and more paperwork: With a negative COVID-19 test required on more and more routes, at least for the first few months of this year, Twidell expects to see more private jet travellers planning ahead. 20% of PrivateFly's flights took off within 48 hours of booking last year; this year they are expecting to see fewer take-offs in that period, especially with extra Brexit paperwork also a factor on some flights.

Demand will continue for entry-level aircraft: Twidell observes a growing demand for smaller, entry-level aircraft, generated by many new clients. He believes 2021 will see this segment grow proportionally, with first-time charter customers utilising light jets and turboprop aircraft as an alternative to airlines.

More business aviation mergers and acquisitions as the industry resettles: The pandemic is set to be a catalyst for change and disruption in many industries, including private jet travel. Twidell believes further consolidation, mergers and acquisitions are likely as a result, with some operators combining to ensure their survival, leading to the evolution of 'mega fleets', and consumers turning to bigger, known brands.

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