Surge in private jet travel was just another pandemic fad


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The explosion of private jet travel during the pandemic appears to have been little more than a pandemic fad – like baking bread, binging on “Tiger King,” and Peloton biking – and jet charter companies are feeling the pain.

Last week, fractional jet ownership company Flexjet – which last year had announced a high-profile SPAC deal – announced it was scrapping its deal to go public via SPAC. This week, the New York Stock Exchange told private aviation company Wheels Up it would be delisted if its stock price remained under $1 per share for another 30 days.

Separately, a document reviewed by On The Money revealed charter volume for the top 15 jet share companies has dropped 14.7% year over year, according to data from Tuvoli. March was the third month in a row where year-over-year volume declined, data shows.

People close to the industry say it’s a wakeup call to those who believed private air travel was here to stay after the pandemic boosted flight volume to all-time highs.

In hindsight, the idea that once people tried flying private they would become addicted and never fly commercial again never materialized, airline insiders admit. The idea that people  would continue to fly private for fear of COVID in a post-vaccine world, was also debunked.

“People wouldn’t even shake hands with each other, of course they wouldn’t sit next to hundreds of other people on a plane,” one insider said. “You had people saving up their pennies, dipping into their retirement, and splitting jets multiple ways because they thought covid was a death sentence.”

But now, flight data shows that hopes of long-term higher volume in aviation has been grounded.

Not only are people flying less now than they were at the height of COVID, they’re flying less than they were before the pandemic – down more than 3% this year compared to the same period in 2019. 

“The frank reality is that volume is on a downward trend … We can see it in the numbers here and I hear it echoed by the folks I talk with across the industry,” Greg Johnson, President of Tuvoli wrote in a note to clients reviewed by The Post. “Flight activity is softening to the point where charter rates are starting to come down.”

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