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Air Partner points out how pandemic will shape future
Air Partner's clients are enquiring about private jets to luxury destinations from March onwards, and the business is making preparations for a possible surge in demand during the spring and summer of 2021.

Air Partner has published its private travel predictions for the year ahead based on its insight and learnings from 60 years of experience.

While Air Partner experienced a significant increase in people interested in private flying during the summer of 2020 as many COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the company says that the wealthy undoubtedly feel they have missed out on travel opportunities during the lockdowns. Air Partner's clients are enquiring about private jets to luxury destinations from March onwards, and the business is making preparations for a possible surge in demand during the spring and summer of 2021. Popular destinations are expected to be the Caribbean, including Barbados, Cuba and St Lucia, the Seychelles, Iceland and Italy, subject of course to travel restrictions. Lavish 'once in a lifetime' trips are also proving popular, for example clients have enquired about flying to a private island in the Caribbean or Maldives, before chartering a luxury yacht to sail around other nearby islands.

At the time of writing, the UK is still in a national lockdown and therefore most travel is at a standstill. Nonetheless, once restrictions have eased and people are able to move more freely, many will be confused and uncertain navigating travel in a post-Brexit world. British tourists will still be able to travel to EU countries plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein without needing a visa. However, they will no longer be able to use the EU passport customs lanes, which will make moving through airports more time consuming and particularly difficult for families or colleagues with different nationalities needing to go through different lanes. Those who fly privately will have much of this inconvenience removed as they will transit through private terminals. Booking privately through businesses like Air Partner will also give travellers access to specialist advisors on post-Brexit travel, to further help address any confusion.

Increasingly crucial for private flyers is total flexibility, as many are understandably looking for the ability to change booking details or cancel up to the very last minute during these uncertain times. This can be found in jet cards, pre-bought private jet flying hours that are highly flexible and mean holders only pay for the hours they fly. Like many industries, Air Partner has adapted its products to help its customers navigate their travels. It has even introduced JetCard5, the first ever jet card loaded with just five hours to the market last year, which is reported to have been highly successful. Already a well-established product in the US private jet market, the jet cards will become an increasingly important asset for UK and Europe based clients.

As vaccination distribution increases across the world, the introduction of vaccine passports for some countries has been suggested in reports. While the ethics and likelihood of this becoming a reality have been debated in the press, what is certain is that many countries will still have many different entry requirements relating to COVID-19, whether it is negative tests, temperature screenings or mandatory quarantining. As people begin travel for business and pleasure again, they will want to be certain they meet the necessary requirements, which may even change at the last minute. The bespoke service that comes with flying privately with a business such as Air Partner guarantees these requirements can be understood and met.

Many private flyers plan their excursions with their pets at hand. Air Partner has the ability to find its clients suitable pet-friendly aircraft. However, since Brexit, there will need to be more planning ahead of time for those travelling with pets in or out of the UK. Pet passports issued in England, Scotland and Wales will no longer be valid for travel to the EU; instead travellers will need to have an Animal Health Certificate (AHC), which must have been issued 10 days prior to travel. This is valid for four months and a new AHC is required for each new departure from Great Britain. In addition to the AHC, travellers with pets must also prove their animal has a microchip, has been vaccinated against rabies and note whether it has had a tapeworm treatment in the case of dogs (a few countries are exempt from this requirement).

It is clear that the global COVID-19 pandemic will change the way people travel for business. New ways of working, which make the most of technology, have demonstrated that travel is not always necessary or efficient. This might apply to middle management level professionals, but Air Partner believes senior business executives and the C-suite will continue to travel as high-level face-to-face meetings remain critical and, when they do, companies will choose to protect their safety by flying them privately. Air Partner also predicts that for businesses moving large groups around the world, the use of charter planes will be more prevalent. This applies to protect the safety of workers in sectors such as oil and gas. Brexit will also impact the way people travel for business in Britain; dealmakers working in banks in London will be expected to travel to Europe as Brexit increases the importance of European capitals in financial services. Many of these high-earning workers are likely to travel privately for safety.

Private travel has never been more paramount for sports teams. In the past it has been popular for its obvious benefits around security, privacy and flexibility. However, now it is essential to protect teams from COVID-19 outbreaks and give a degree of control over the end-to-end experience. With major sporting governing bodies, including UEFA, strongly advising the use of private charter flights, Air Partner expects it will need to cater to an increase in demand around sporting events such as the UEFA Euros and the Summer Olympics in Tokyo if they do go ahead this year.

While private air travel clearly offers a host of safety, security and convenience benefits, private fliers are becoming more environmentally conscious and aware of their contributions to carbon emissions. While many private aviation businesses including Air Partner aim to address this by promoting carbon offsetting schemes and other environmental initiatives, Air Partner expects to see industry developments around biofuel. While environmentally friendly electric aircraft are, realistically, some way off, leaner and cleaner engines are the next feasible step in private aviation, with possible developments in hydrogen fuelled planes expected this year.

With COVID-19 likely to still be present as vaccine efforts are ongoing, safety whilst travelling will still be a major theme in 2021. Private aviation is one of the most reliable and safe modes of transport, as it limits contact with other people both on flight and when travelling through private terminals. The pandemic has re-shaped perceptions towards safety when it comes to flying and travel. Air Partner foresees that businesses will review travel policies during 2021, to prioritise the safety of employees, while individuals and families will choose not to take risks by flying commercially. Air Partner expects private travel will continue to grow in popularity as the preferred method for transport, whether it is individually on private jets or groups on private commercial airliners.

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