On the evening of Saturday 10th September, embassies worldwide received a private document advising leaders, where possible, to board commercial flights to the UK for the Queen’s State Funeral.
Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, said he would be attending the service in his official jet.
This follows months of increasing outcry on social media over the use of private jets by A-list celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift, who’ve allegedly racked up 68 and 170 trips this year, respectively.
However, the fact of the matter is, private jet charters have experienced an unprecedented growth which the industry expects to continue, and not just thanks to celebrities and world leaders.
Here, Andy Christie, Director of Private Jets at Air Charter Service, shares the industry growth they’ve experienced from momentum gained at the start of the global pandemic.
Your job title, ‘Director of Private Jets’, is both impressive and fascinating. Is there a typical response to it when you meet someone for the first time outside of the industry?
The first question is usually “are you a pilot?”, followed by “which famous people have you flown/met?”, when mentioning that ACS charters private jets on behalf of our customers, which is usually followed by an anecdote about a friend’s uncle who once flew privately! The Private Jet industry is always a topic of conversation as it is a niche market and most people know very little, if anything about it.
Tell us about the continued use of private jet travel. What might surprise people the most to learn?
New customers join Air Charter Service daily, with US and Europe leading the market growth. We saw this surge in demand through the beginning of the pandemic. We are witnessing these customers returning for additional flights two years in. It is hard to go back to commercial flying after tasting the charter experience, especially with fractured flight connections and issues with commercial airlines still operating a fraction of the pre-pandemic routes. These customers return to Air Charter Service because they want to; the service they receive is second to none; this has been central to the growth of our private jet business for the last 20 years.
There has also been a shift in the perception of private jet travel, moving from a luxury to a necessity. It is far more socially acceptable in Europe now to avoid busy airport terminals and crowded commercial flights full of strangers, to the flexibility of changing plans or booking at short notice. Equally, it is considered responsible for C-Level executives travelling for business and protecting the health of the board members travelling for meetings.
Interestingly, there are certainly more customers taking their first flights at a younger age than before COVID. The lack of commercial routes and the ability to change the departure times and the number of passengers up until the last minute has made chartering a more suitable means of travel than ever before.
How do you anticipate the industry evolving going forward?
I think the move towards eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft will become a reality with licencing and funding all moving forwards at a healthy rate. Sustainability is a key area of growth and the use of SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) will increase as production is ramped up and it becomes more readily available, helping support the reduction in carbon emission initiatives.
What would your response be to anyone concerned about carbon impact?
The drive toward sustainability has become ever more important across many industries in recent years, and the private aviation sector is no different. Of course, aviation is a high profile and visible industry and has attracted a lot of attention, however, it’s important to look at the data and understand where aviation sits against overall global emissions. Aviation in its entirety only contributes 2% to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the charter industry is responsible for only a small part of the overall aviation industry emissions, which are estimated to be 0.04% of global emissions.
That said, the aviation industry recognises its significant emissions and the urgent need to change and reduce these. Improvements have already been made and there are now options to increase this change with advancing new technology and innovations. Aviation is by no means the largest contributing sector and it is important that all industries work on a global level to reduce and remove GHG emissions.
Air Charter Service partners with Carbon Trade Xchange for a carbon offsetting scheme, enabling our clients to add 0.5% of the booking value to offset their journey. The money generated goes to a fund that is invested in a range of projects. We also sponsored the creation of the prototype electric aircraft with the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – the e-Spirit St. Louis and partnered with a UK university to fund a PhD scholar to carry out research into aviation batteries and electric flights. Huge efforts and focus are being placed in sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), emission offsetting schemes and new technology innovations with both electric and hydrogen propulsion. It’s a difficult task for companies around the world, but we’re dedicated to acquiring the most sustainable fuel options and investing in the future development of them.
Why Air Charter Service, above others?
We have over 30 years’ experience in transporting people across the globe. Whilst many companies can get a price for a flight, it is a complex business that requires experience to manage the whole process smoothly.
Each client is allocated a dedicated charter expert to be available 24/7, offering a single point of contact throughout the whole process. Despite the huge support team in the background, our goal is to give clients as personal a service as possible. And, no matter where our clients want to fly from, our international network of offices provides local knowledge on a global scale. We make our clients’ charter experience as luxurious and comfortable as possible by choosing the right aircraft for their trip, rather than offering the right aircraft for our bottom line.
As consultants, we have access to 50,000 private airplanes and 130 different aircraft types, rather than being limited to a small fleet. This means it’s a one stop shop for luxury air travel. Whether clients need a helicopter to fly to a country retreat, a small propeller on a remote airstrip for a safari, a luxury private jet to fly to the Caribbean or a luxury airliner to take wedding guests to the Mediterranean in style. Furthermore, an aircraft operator with a limited fleet will need to position in an aircraft to perform a charter from its last location. By finding aircraft at or close to the client’s departure point, we can often offer the same aircraft types without the same cost of positioning.