Private aviation often plays a key role in natural disasters. In advance of oncoming hurricanes, there is high demand for private jet charters, and then after the fact, there is another spike.
Chartering a private jet is often the best way to evacuate. That’s particularly true if you need to relocate elderly relatives or friends, people with medical conditions, young children and household pets.
French police and gendarme officers evacuate the market of Crepy-in-Valois on March 1, 2020, … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
While private jet operations are restricted by government edicts, airport and airspace closures, and operational requirements, they often continue to serve markets for hours and sometimes days after the airlines suspend service.
With Coronavirus, private aviation may serve an additional role.
As companies put stops on regular business travel, hoping to reduce exposure of employees to contacts with mass groups of random people in airports and airplanes, private jet flights provide a valuable option.
Employees can still try to remote locations or visit customers for business critical in-person meetings, or delivering important materials that might be hard to ship.
For families, flying privately offers a way to still make that vacation or important gathering while limiting exposure.
However, the question is how do you use private aviation for an emergency situation?
One way is to just wait until you need to fly. In that case, you can call several private jet charter brokers and compare quotes.
Of course, you won’t be alone.
If inventory of available private aircraft is stretched, brokers are going to first make sure regular clients are taken accommodated.
Many aircraft that are available for charter are not owned by the company that flies you, but are managed by that company on behalf of the owner.
It could well be in addition to increased demand, some owners who normally allow their aircraft to be used on the charter market, decide to keep them grounded or on call for their own use.
In the past, jet cards have proven to be a good solution to prepare in advance, much like making sure you have water, food stocked, batteries and flashlights before a hurricane.
The key is to find the right jet card for these type of situations.
First, you will want guaranteed availability. That means if you call by the booking deadline, the provider guarantees they will find a specified aircraft type for you.
In the case of Coronavirus, you are going to want as much flexibility as possible.
For that reason, focus on jet memberships with guaranteed availability and shorter booking windows.
There are a number of programs that guarantee an aircraft in 24 hours or less, in some cases as little as six hours.
You will also want to look for programs that short cancelation windows, as plans might change. Again, there are jet cards that will let you cancel in 24 hours and in some cases, less.
Also, consider where you will be flying, and make sure that the provider serves those places. Card companies usually refer to this as the primary service area.
Another feature not offered by all providers, but highly recommended, is fixed one-way hourly rates. Fixed one-way hourly rates mean you know how much you will be paying in advance, and won’t be subject to price spikes due to high demand. It also means repositioning fees are already baked into that price, so you won’t have to pay for ferry flights before or after your trip.
In other words, you can buy a jet card today that will give you the ability to reserve an aircraft on 12 hours notice three weeks from now, at a specified rate.
Instead of calling multiple brokers with the clock ticking, getting quotes, then arranging payment, you can reserve your evacuation flight with one call, an email, text or even online booking.
You should also consider if you will be moving household pets. Not all providers accommodate pets, and if you will be flying unaccompanied minors, maybe back from boarding school for example, check on the minimum age. Again, some programs don’t permit unaccompanied minors while others have age restrictions.
Think about the maximum number of people you will need to fly. Not all providers offer large cabin jets, which typically can seat 12 to 15 passengers. Specifically review the minimum number of seats your program will guarantee. Some light jet programs guarantee six seats while others can seat up to nine people. Some programs also allow you to specify the size or type of jet when you book, providing more flexibility.
Another factor to think about this time around is who you are buying from. With worldwide financial markets in flux, you will want to make sure your provider is financially stable.
Find out who owns the company or if privately held, who are the main investors, how long have they been around, and if they offer an escrow account to protect your funds.
You might also want to look at pay-as-you-go programs so long as they offer guaranteed availability and fixed one-way rates.
Hopefully you won’t need to use your jet card for Coronavirus related flights, but instead something more fun. However, you may also want to check if the provider will refund the unused balance, and how long funds will stay valid. Some programs expire funds in as little as 18 months, while others will let you keep your funds on account without limits.
The benefit of reviewing options and buying into a private aviation membership program now is that you will be ready if you need to relocate family members, or to attend a key client meeting as the need arises.