There is nothing like a pandemic to highlight the advantages of flying private. As big companies and wealthy consumers look to keep flying without the stain of owning planes outright, “Uber-like” services like Wheels Up, VistaJet and Blade could reap the gains.
Business-jet traffic is now up a whopping 45% world-wide relative to the start of 2019, compared with a 24% drop in commercial traffic, according to tracker FlightAware, even though corporate travel hasn’t yet recovered. The demand has come from rich people—many of whom had never used a private plane—living in more remote locations and avoiding commercial airports for vacations, jet brokers say.
Fractional-ownership providers, led by Warren Buffett’s NetJets, have long been suppliers of marginal capacity to this market, are on a path to becoming central. Newer players like Wheels Up—which joined the stock market in July—and Europe’s VistaJet try to get even closer to car-hailing services like Uber, offering membership and “pay as you fly” services that allow booking and even sharing of planes on short notice through smartphone apps.
When it comes to short trips, New York-based Blade is casting an even wider net, offering seats on private jets headed to Florida and Colorado for under $3,000—much closer to the cost of a first-class ticket than of a charter flight.
Private jets are here to stay: Business aviation employs 1.2 million people in the U.S., giving it more political leverage than climate activists might like. With many executives having newly experienced the convenience of private cabins.
By flying with others, not only are you saving costs but you are helping carbon emissions decrease through not flying on your own.