Concerned about virus-related safety on commercial planes, many fliers are turning to private jets for the first time although it may cost them much than airfare for regular airlines.
Lexi Shangraw, a San Francisco resident, flew to Phoenix in early March for what was supposed to be a brief visit. But when lockdowns started, she ended up staying longer than anticipated in hopes of waiting out COVID-19.
Last month, she decided it was finally time to return home. Dubious about the safety of big commercial airlines, she chose JSX, a hybrid private jet service that departs from small, private terminals. In the world of private jet travel, Ms. Shangraw got a good deal. Her one-way ticket on a semi-private jet to Oakland, California, cost 159 USD. That same day, a flight to the Bay Area on American Airlines would have cost 150 USD, she said.
Ms. Shangraw is among the growing number of Americans using private jets, seeing them as a safer alternative to the often cramped commercial flights filled with strangers during the pandemic. The day after the Fourth of July, when commercial airline travel was down 74 percent year-over-year, private jet flights were up five percent, according to an analysis of data from Argus, an aviation consulting firm.
Besides convenience and safety, airfares for a flight like this can be considered as not too expensive. However, JSX is just a regular private flight service and passengers can also choose more expensive flights, costing from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per hour of flight. In return, visitors can use more advanced services.
Franklin Antoian is an example of a passenger flying in a more high-class private jet. In July, he flew from Florida to New York with his wife and two children to visit his family on a 20,000-USD flight, which cost six times more than the first-class ticket on a commercial plane Mr. Antoian usually purchased. Mr. Antoian explained that this could be his only flight this year, as the outbreaks remain unpredictable around the world.
With this service, the Franklin family was carried from their house to the gate of a small airport by private transport. Their plane only took off when the whole family had settled down. With this experience, his family did not have to face other annoying things like normal commercial flights such as some of the other passengers refusing to wear face masks on planes, flights delaying and waiting in a lounge crowded with strangers.
The only drawback for many air travelers using private jet service is the cost. A one-way flight between New York and Miami costs between 15,000 to 20,000 USD, with the private jet carrying from 4 to 10 passengers. Although with the maximum capacity of 10 passengers, each passenger still spends a much higher amount than the ticket they purchase to travel in economy class.
To stimulate travel demand, airlines are implementing discounts and prômtions. Under the CARES Act, passengers using this service are not required to pay a 7.5% federal special excise tax between March 28 and December 31. The air-travel companies also do not have to pay fuel taxes until the end of this year and these airfares will be deducted directly from the tickets before sales.
US aviation experts believe that the trend of using private jets will continue to soar in the near future, while commercial airlines face many losses.