How did the charter aviation sector benefit from the pandemic?

How did the charter aviation sector benefit from the pandemic?

Thu 07 Apr 2022

How did the charter aviation sector benefit from the pandemic?

Aviation Business sat down with AFI JET to discuss the sector’s recovery, latest developments and its unpredicted growth during the pandemic.

Over the past two years, the commercial aviation sector sustained the biggest financial losses of all business verticals, due to the sudden onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic in November 2019.
Entire passenger fleets were grounded as stringent travel restrictions and border closures have been introduced, forcing commercial carriers to halt operations and preserve cash to survive the unprecedented implications, meanwhile, a considerable market segment has shifted
towards private chartered airlines in search of convenience, flexibility and reliability.

With the COVID-19 vaccinations rolling out across the world and travel resuming in many sectors, AFI JET remains optimistic about longterm prospects of private air travel across the globe. This augurs well not only for us but for the entire industry, as we look to expand our services and geographical footprint in the months to come.”

AFI JET is a TURKEY-based charter broker founded in 2021, offering tailored solutions of private jets and commercial aircraft charter for business, leisure, group travel and emergency purposes. As well as cargo freighter solutions to ensure timely transport of critical cargo within regulatory frameworks.

The company aims to offer tailored service offerings to meet clients’ requirements and preferences, with cost-effective, time-critical and hassle-free solutions utilising over 60,000 aircraft across its network.

Filling the gap

As added travel restrictions and cargo capacity restraints were enforced to curb the virus’ spread, travellers had to find an alternative to fulfil necessary travel plans. “Even during the pandemic, with economies and businesses dealing with travel disruption and drastically reduced cargo capacity, AFI JET private charter flights have bridged the gap between the cargo demand and available lift,” noting that “AFI JET was one of the first air charter companies to deploy aircraft for the evacuation of stranded Afghans and other nationalities earlier this year. We managed to get this done with the assistance and support of our global partners and network, making the impossible, possible!”

Additionally, with health and safety becoming an utmost priority, the demand for medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) has witnessed a substantial surge, particularly, with the congested global supply chain.

“We helped communities with repatriation missions and medical flights, not only for patients but also for staff deployment, distributing critical medical equipment, medicines and securing cargo aircraft for critical deliveries. We also contributed to easing the choked global supply chain by transporting personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, surgical masks, gloves and medical supplies.”

Key Challenges

Over the past two years, a lot has changed in the air travel sector. Business travel used to be associated with global corporations and the need for senior executives to be on the go for meetings, nevertheless, due to the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns chartered air travel is no longer exclusively catering to corporations and senior executives.

“During the pandemic, our chartered flights saw an uptick in demand as commercial air travel dwindled. Across our chartered aircraft, we moved cargo, medical supplies, and groups of stranded people around the world, not just the usual passenger roster of business executives, billionaires, sports stars, and celebrities.”

Yet the question remains, how is private air travel different from flying first class, for example in curbing the virus’ spread? Can chartered flights minimise the risk of a COVID-19 infection?

“Chartering a flight mitigates many of the risks of being infected, both on the ground and in the air. The risk of exposure is much lower on private flights as compared to flying commercial owing to the significantly fewer touchpoints. Older passengers and those with existing health conditions are opting for private travel to avoid contracting COVID-19 on commercial flights.”

Overcoming challenges

The pandemic has introduced a set of new challenges, not only to the commercial aviation sector but to the industry as a whole, especially with the already vulnerable global supply chain and the added cargo movement limitations, nevertheless, AFI JET managed to sustain a steady growth while navigating through the storm.

“During the year, we expanded our global footprint, with a range of delivery services aimed at staying resilient and achieving sustained growth. As a result, AFI JET flew over 28,000 people in total. As some countries began welcoming tourists again, AFI JET saw pent up demand materialise. Despite a turbulent period for aviation, the company signed up as the General Sales Agent (GSA) for Fly2Sky’s Airbus A320 fleet earlier this year, performed over 80 flights across 159 sectors, flown over 11,000 passengers, generated over $8 million in revenue and added seven new customers in the first six months of operations as GSA.”

Sustained growth

Fears over the impact of the heavily mutated Omicron variant have been on the rise, with possible lockdowns on the horizon, threatening to hamper the trade’s long-awaited recovery. “We remain upbeat about the further growth of the market, and we will be investing more into our operations in 2022. We are confident that the overall market for domestic private aviation will grow significantly, as what was once seen as a luxury is now often considered a necessity. We expect to see a demand for business flights and an increased number of first-time private fliers as they look for safer and more reliable flight solutions.”

But will the private aviation sector continue to grow, despite the threat of Omicron?

“As for Omicron and other variants, we always ensure safety protocols are followed. Private charters have given the option to every individual, not only the rich and famous, to travel without having to rely on scheduled commercial flights that are now unpredictable due to various reasons. I predict that the private charter will become more prominent in terms of on-demand travel.”

Expansion plans

As the aviation landscape continues to shift, and the market demand continues to surge, especially with commercial airlines limiting services to certain areas and at times fully retreating from entire markets, private aviation steps in to take over.

However, such expansion requires a flexible service offering tailored to fill the gap and meet the new market requirements.

“To support this demand, private aviation providers such as AFI JET need to broaden their scope of services to stay relevant and cater to a wider group of people that extend beyond just high net worth individuals and A-listers. Leisure demand will recover before corporate travel, and this structural change in the market will lead to new cabin layouts,” affirming that AFI JET is looking to “expand operations into Africa, even as we navigate the new normal of the postpandemic business landscape and continue to serve people from around the world. We will be deploying our services in new target markets.”