By Emily Gray
Reports coming in that summer holiday bookings to the Mediterranean have doubled despite quarantine restrictions, suggest that the UK is keen to get travelling again, but with social distancing measures still firmly in place, airports are facing logistical challenges to keep everyone safe. However, where commercial flights might be struggling, private flights are coming into their own, we spoke with Simon Gibson of private jet charter company, 365 Aviation to find out how we could travel safely in the future.
Controlled Environment Travel
‘We’ve had a lot of enquiries from people looking to travel,’ says Simon, ‘they would much rather be social distancing somewhere sunny rather than at home.’ And whilst spending your summer in a private villa abroad is infinitely more preferable to staying in the UK with its unpredictable weather, one of the largest problems facing the travel industry is how to observe the social distancing rules. One option for ensuring that they can reach these destinations safely is ‘controlled environment travel’, the notion of travelling in a protected bubble from your front door to your final destination. A screened private car drives you directly to the private aircraft or private terminal avoiding the public terminals and on the other side the process is repeated until you reach your private yacht, island, villa or resort property. This is where private travel completely comes into its own. ‘It is something that only private jet charter can provide,’ explains Simon, ‘we ensure that the cars and jets are sanitized to the highest standards and that the drivers, pilots and crew are all tested for COVID-19 and are wearing the necessary protection.’
Democratisation of Private Travel
‘Clients who usually charter jets solely for business trips are now looking to also fly privately with their families when they start to holiday again,’ explains Simon. ‘Alongside this we’ve also had a number of group enquiries, where friends or familial groups are looking to charter private jets together, to spread the cost and to take them to their villas in Italy or chalets in France, it’s essentially a democratization of private travel.’ With the right size group, you’ll find that actually, for the cost of a business class commercial transatlantic flight you can fly privately short haul. And it’s not just that you’ll be flying privately and thereby reducing risk of transmission, as Simon explains ‘with private jets, customs and immigration checks are completed in advance, passports are submitted in the days before you travel, so you can still arrive at the airport just half an hour before your flight for a temperature check.’ It’s a very attractive benefit when it’s being suggested that we will need to arrive four hours before flights in the future when using commercial airports and terminals.
Travelling More Purposefully
‘There is no doubt that Covid-19 is going to be the biggest shakeup to travel since the stricter measures were brought in as a result of 9/11,’ says Simon. Preventing transmission will mean longer queues at airports not only because of social distancing, but because of stringent health checks such as taking temperatures, potentially checking health passports and this is before we even take into consideration that we may be expected to quarantine on arrival back into the UK and the disruption to the onboard service that travelers are accustomed to. The result is that families are likely to travel less often but more purposefully, going for longer trips where they can really explore the country rather than regularly jetting off for a couple of days lying on the beach. ‘With families travelling less regularly, a chartered jet once a year perhaps now seems more feasible.’
One of the knock-on effects to have come out of this current situation is that the natural environment has thrived. Across the world as travel has been restricted the air has become clearer. In Delhi they have reported seeing the Himalayas for the first time in decades, between mid-March and mid-April, air pollution in Rome dropped by 49% from last year and in parts of London levels of nitrogen oxide are said to have been reduced by 35%.
It therefore seems somewhat counterproductive to suggest we charter private jets more regularly post-lockdown, especially now we have seen what can be achieved in a relatively short albeit intense period of reduced pollution. However, 365 Aviation is already working to offset its carbon emissions. ‘Sustainability is something we’re very passionate about, we’ve partnered with ClimateCare and we actively encourage our clients to off-set carbon emissions on every flight and the vast majority of our clients embrace it. The reality is though that this is just a plaster and really we need to focus serious intent on further developing bio-fuels and emergent aircraft technology to make our flights carbon-neutral which is something that the industry is work.
Hopefully soon the weeks we have spent inside listllessly dreaming of travelling again will soon be a (albeit socially distanced) reality.