The irregular return of scheduled flights is diverting a record number of wealthy travelers onto private jets, prompting an aircraft crisis as the industry scrambles to increase capacity.
This year there have been more than 4.2 million flights on private jets, according to aviation data provider WingX, with a record number in each of the last six months. In the first week of November, they were up 54 percent over the same period last year, and 16 percent more than in 2019.
FlexJet’s CEO “practically spent the last nine months buying planes,” said Marine Eugene, European CEO of the fractionally owned company.
Industry executives say rising wealth among the rich, particularly in the United States, has also fueled the boom in private flights.
Demand is so high that Flexjet has stopped accepting new customers for its entry-level Jet Card programs. So has NetJets, which has reported the highest demand for flights in its nearly 60-year history and is investing about $ 2.5 billion in 100 new jets.
Used aircraft inventories are at record lows, according to Jefferies, with just 861 aircraft on sale in October, half the number available a year earlier.
But sales are increasing despite the low numbers available. Consulting firm Ascend by Cirium said that second-hand sales in the first nine months of the year had been almost 10% higher than in the same period in 2019.
“For the first time in a long time, you are seeing distressed buyers. . . people are paying above the asking price and there is simply a shortage of availability that has never been seen, ”said Anna Kopinski, analyst at mba Aviation.
Stephen Williams, managing director of Super Legacy, which updates used jets, can’t find enough parts to meet demand.
“The problem is that there is really a huge demand at the moment and we cannot get the air frames. . . to be able to modify them as quickly as we want, ”he said.
Daniel Hall, Ascend’s senior valuation consultant, said there was even strong demand for older jets that carry higher maintenance risk and operating costs.
Backorders for most new jets are approaching two years, according to Hall.
Benoit Defforge, president of Airbus Corporate Jets, the aircraft maker’s private jet division, said demand was “higher than pre-pandemic levels,” with “many newcomers arriving.”
Defforge said the first available delivery space for one of its equipped ACJ220 jets is “the beginning of 2024.”
The boom in the sector comes despite higher environmental costs: a private jet emits up to 20 times more CO2 per passenger per mile than a commercial jet, according to the FlyVictor charter platform.
Some within the industry caution against exuberance, as it has historically been a cyclical business.
“The use of commercial aviation is absolutely tied to the perceived wealth and strengths of the economy,” said Eugene of FlexJet. “Anyone in this industry who is not wary of this, I don’t know where it has been in the last few decades.”