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Group travel redefined

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With border restrictions easing to allow for some international movement, will we change the way we travel?

Uncertainty is defining 2020, but one thing we can be sure of is that change is happening. Every industry is defining their ‘new normal’ as they develop and navigate revised sector standards.

For business aviation, new opportunities lie ahead. Reduced airline capacities and unclear social distancing rules on scheduled flights, and in airports, is pushing travellers towards aircraft charter as a means to fly with greater control.

In June 2020, 40% of our flights were booked by new customers and we saw a 100% increase in total bookings versus the month before. Part of this upward trend results from a new interest in group charter. Regional air charter is becoming increasingly popular post-lockdown, with corporates looking to set up shuttles where airline routes have been cut or where employers are concerned about the COVID risk associated with the lack of control over who employees will come into contact with on a scheduled flight.

Victor’s Group Charter department specialises in private charter flights for groups of 18 passengers and more. This can range from a group of friends chartering a 32 Seat Dornier 328 for their annual ski holiday, to a company chartering a 250 seat Boeing 767 for their annual incentive trip.

Our Director of Commercial Jets, Tom Hill, shares his thoughts around the trends Victor’s Group Charter team is experiencing…

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“Aviation is starting to bounce back after the catastrophic effects of COVID, and it’s a welcome burst of optimism for the sector. I certainly see huge opportunity for aircraft charter in the ‘post-COVID’ market”, he comments.

Aviation is starting to bounce back after the catastrophic effects of COVID, and it’s a welcome burst of optimism for the sector. I certainly see huge opportunity for aircraft charter in the ‘post-COVID’ market

“Over the past few months, we’ve experienced fewer group charter flights from our frequent flyer clientele, such as sports teams and corporate clients, due to the cancellation of sporting events and strict travel restrictions put in place. This, however, has been somewhat offset by the number of repatriation and key worker flights we were able to facilitate.”

Tom adds, “We’ve also seen an increase in the number of group charter enquiries from new customers, for whom this is their first time chartering an aircraft. These new requests are from both B2B and B2C clients. For example on the B2B side, we’ve launched a series of corporate shuttles for construction companies to allow them to fly their workers on a closed charter flight to and from project sites across Europe. As for B2C, there’s plenty of groups of families and friends now chartering a private aircraft for their summer and winter vacations.

One family who has typically always flown business class with BA for their annual Christmas trip to Barbados are now choosing to charter instead. They are a group of 30 and with a few of the party elderly with underlying health conditions, they want to avoid the risk of sharing an aircraft with a couple of hundred other passengers. For their trip, we’ve sourced an Airbus A318 VIP aircraft. This particular aircraft is equipped with 32 (lie flat) business class seats and includes the use of the private terminals at both London Stansted and Barbados, limiting the group’s exposure to other passengers. The price worked out at approximately £7,000 per passenger for the round trip, which is only slightly more expensive than the £5,000 it would have cost them flying with British Airways, but they can enjoy all the “bells and whistles” you would expect on a private charter flight and, most importantly, considerably less contact with others. Furthermore, the group were able to customise their flight schedule to exactly what suited them.”

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For anyone new to group charter, Tom outlines the main benefits of opting for a Private Group Charter compared with flying with a scheduled service provider:

1. Your own aircraft, means you control who is on board.

In light of COVID-19, we’ve never been more aware of who we come into close proximity with. One of the main benefits of a private charter flight is the dedicated use of the entire aircraft, meaning you are in control of who is on board, unlike on a scheduled flight where you could be sharing the aircraft with hundreds of unknown passengers. You decide where you would like to implement social-distancing onboard the aircraft. Although not mandatory, several customers have recently opted for a larger aircraft to ensure that each passenger has an entire row to themselves, thereby increasing the space between each passenger.

2. Direct flights, means no lengthy flight connections.

With scheduled airlines around the globe dramatically reducing their capacity, there are significantly fewer flight options available to individuals. As a result, airline passengers are having to purchase connecting flights to reach their desired destination, which is not only a time-consuming process, but also increases exposure to even more travellers. With a private charter flight, you customise your flight schedule to your individual requirements.

3. Private terminal facilities mean less exposure pre- and post-flight

When you fly privately, you have access to the private terminal at your departure and arrival airports. Typically, you will arrive 60 minutes prior to departure and enjoy private check-in, private security and private lounge, prior to boarding the aircraft. Whilst providing a more relaxing and efficient departure experience, it also reduces the group’s interaction with other passengers, versus when you fly commercially.

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