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Rena Davenport  


Should shorter flights concern the private jet industry?

Rena Davenport, Exquisite Air Charter.

Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Exquisite Air Charter, Rena Davenport, shares her thoughts on how private jet providers can weather a trend that has the entire industry in the public eye - short flights amidst a heated sustainability debate.


The essence of private aviation is allowing the passenger to control the travel experience. That flexibility has allowed customers for decades to decide how to fly.

Whether it’s a short flight connecting locations without commercial airline itineraries or a long-haul flight to a remote destination, the industry adapts to consumer needs - that’s its unrivaled competitive advantage that comes with a price tag.

Yet the public eye has other plans; to flight shame those flying private, especially on shorter flights. WingX recently reported that 53% of business jet flights last month were only 1.5 hours long or less, which is a defining fact that opens the door for more scrutiny, while also imposing the need from our industry to control the narrative behind that reality. Like, did you know that private aviation accounts for only 0.04 percent of global carbon emissions?

The pandemic changed how private aviation is perceived worldwide while also educating travelers about how the industry operates far beyond millionaires and celebrities. During the outbreak, private aviation wasn’t grounded and enabled repatriation flights and humanitarian missions at a global scale. Also, do you think the 53% stat accounts for how many flights allowed a small business to deliver a service in a remote location without a commercial itinerary? Not likely.

Perhaps the shorter flights might be attributed to the new entrants to the market that aren’t necessarily big spenders but avoiding commercial airlines. As you know, the outbreak also generated an influx of first-time private jet flyers that aren’t ready yet to return to commercial aviation due to mounting inefficiencies, especially during national and global peak travel seasons.

he Nextant 400XTi - one of Exquisite Air Charter's most chartered light jets in recent months.

The Nextant 400XTi - one of Exquisite Air Charter's most chartered light jets in recent months.

Furthermore, big plane usage is down because when the market was completely overwhelmed during Covid-19 it was difficult to find availability on ultra-long-range jets that would approve a shorter flight – owners and management companies refused to even quote the shorter trips. In contrast, our company just recently booked a flight from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas (approximately 4 hours total; just 2 hours in each direction) on a Gulfstream G550 and had offers from several comparable aircraft. The market is definitely shorter flights right now.

In fact, at Exquisite Air Charter we are getting a lot of requests for light jets for shorter trips, the Citation Bravo, Nextant 400XTi, and Learjet 31 are the three most chartered in the past 2-3 months. Also, some turboprops like King Air, Pilatus PC-12, and Avanti II.

Unjustifiable ultra-short flights

Another reality that does not benefit the industry is the mounting number of 15-minute flights from corporations and celebrities. While still a very small sample size, the generated media attention does not help the industry in any way - it’s getting harder every day to justify that trend from a sustainability lens.

This reminds me of a situation back in 2008 and 2009. When the economy was stagnant the executives of the major US automakers (Ford, and General Motors, among others) took private jets to the auto bailout hearing with the US Congress. It was heavily criticized. I completely understand why it was condemned – they were asking for money while utilizing expensive jets to get from Detroit to Washington DC, two city pairs that are very well serviced by commercial airlines and that is much more cost-effective, especially when you need to convey an austerity stance during a bailout hearing.

For better or worse, we’re definitely together in this one - customers, providers, and authorities. What’s the solution to the short-flight discussion? Does the industry really need to find a solution, or will the market find a way to regulate itself? From a revenue perspective, private jet providers naturally prefer longer flights, yet will an increase in these types of operations reduce private jet fight shaming? Probably not.

All these questions should be in the mind of private jet providers globally, understanding the public’s opinion is important to shorten any potential expectation gap with consumers in order to deliver a consistent service.

We will always be happy and open to working with authorities if they determine to regulate shorter flights that are well-served by commercial aviation, yet, for now, our focus is to continue adapting to our customer’s needs and expectations whether they require an aircraft for a short business flight that allows them to return home to their families that same day or a humanitarian mission to serve thousands of people impacted by a natural disaster.

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Exquisite Air Charter


BlueSky Business Aviation News | 16th March 2023 | Issue #693


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