Air Partner, the global aviation services group, is preparing for a busy summer of sport as it anticipates demand for charter flights for teams in what is expected to be a triumphant return for major sporting events. Events such as the Tokyo Olympic Games, Euro 2020 and Wimbledon are likely to take place this year having been postponed following the initial breakout of COVID-19 last year.
Air Partner works alongside a range of high profile sports teams and individual athletes. From Premier League football teams to rugby, basketball and Formula 1, the sports industry is increasingly relying on private travel due to the increased safety, reliability and flexibility offered in comparison to scheduled flights Air Partner has flown privately over 9,200 people for sport since the pandemic began in March 2020 and expects demand to continue as more sporting events resume.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), sports tourism is “one of the fastest growing sectors” in the travel industry. Even during the pandemic, aviation for sport has proven to be resilient as the industry has relied heavily on aircraft charter for transportation of teams and officials. Many official sporting bodies have strongly advised the use of private charter flights for teams to protect their safety through the formation of team travel bubbles and reduce touchpoint exposure whilst travelling during the global pandemic. Air Partner expects to see this trend increase over the next few months as even more sporting events return, especially if spectators are permitted to enjoy live sport again.
Charter MD Kevin Macnaughton comments: “While private travel has been prevalent in the sports industry in the past, the pandemic has significantly increased its reliance on this method of transport to protect players and ensure fixtures and events can still go ahead, to be enjoyed on screens from fans' homes. We have helped a number of national and international teams continue to play, a recent example being us arranging for two national handball teams flying from Ljubljana to Egypt for the Men's Handball World Championship. As travel restrictions have limited mobility, we have also seen an increase in demand for combinations of our services, for example our air freight team moving sports equipment such as Formula 1 cars alongside private charters for teams and drivers.
“In addition, bespoke COVID-19 safety measures, such as testing for players before flights and providing direct airside access from private terminals, have proved invaluable to sports teams and continue to be integral for enabling sporting events to persist. Looking ahead, with vaccine rollout programmes happening around the world, we are tentatively anticipating the return of more sport this summer, perhaps even with physical spectators. Should this progress, we are likely to continue to see demand for sports teams wanting to charter planes, plus enquiries from fans considering charter planes or private jets to ensure their own safety when travelling to events.”