The pandemic was famously bad for the airline industry. African airlines too were not spared as travel was disrupted and was occasioned by mass flight cancellations and long delays.
But that’s not to say the entire aviation sector was pummeled. One particular niche, in fact, has benefited from the airlines’ woes: private aviation.
While carriers grounded services over the past two years, the super rich and business leaders were still able to travel safe in the knowledge that they were sticking to their own Covid-19 bubble.
Whatever this may say about the chasm between our haves and have-mores, it only means, Air charter sourcing companies have been cashing in on booking business charter planes by Africa’s high net-worth Individuals.
A pricey but sought-after alternative
At the ongoing MEBAA show in Dubai, business jet manufacturers say they expect a soaring demand in 2023 despite supply chain constraints.
Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) President Erika Pearson shared industry highlights for business jet operations in the MEA region on Monday’s opening day of MEBAA – a leading private business aviation event – as she said that, “The Middle East and Africa (MEA) together have 820 business jets, with a large concentration of those being in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This region sets the highest expectations for service, luxury, and space.”
Meanwhile, according to insights from WINGX, the aviation research and consultancy company, bizjet activities in Africa in the month of November is up 16% compared to the same period last year.
Jettly.com, a leading private jet charter company has seen a 17-percent jump in bookings coming from the continent in the last three years, says Justin Crabbe, the CEO of Jettly speaking to Airspace Africa.
According to Crabbe, the shift towards private flying was because travelers saw it as a necessary luxury during COVID-19, increasing “dramatically” as major African airlines were forced to cut routes and people were perhaps fearful of the virus in Africa.
“The pandemic has converted a lot of travelers to private flying, many for the first time,” he notes.
“The pandemic was interesting, in that it drove many new customers to Jettly as they were fearful of the virus. On the other hand, many airlines cut their routes, and so private aircraft picked up the slack,” the CEO notes regarding the increased appetite for private flying due to Covid-19.
But where are these flights travelling to?
Jettly’s client base is 61% B2B and 39% B2C in Africa, meaning that most private jet users from the continent are traveling for business.
Most of the company’s notable clients in Africa come from the mining industry and oil and gas, Crabbe explains.
But with the world continuing to hopefully put the pandemic behind us, will the use of private planes now decline?
Leaders of top business jet manufacturers agreed during the MEBAA show – which concludes today – that consumers and business jet users have developed a real taste for ‘flying private’, and chances are these VIP flyers will not go back to flying with commercial airlines.
Crabbe, whose company receives 32,000 monthly requests from around the world through a network of approximately 23,000 unique and registered aircraft spanning 190 countries and territories is confident about the demand for private jet post-pandemic as he simply notes that, “once you fly private it is difficult to go back to commercial.”
December 2022 top 3 departure cities on the continent by flight request count
1. Algiers – 982 flight requests
2. Cairo – 843 flight requests
3. Casablanca – 791 flight requests
Most chartered aircraft in Africa
1. Hawker 800XP
2. Citation Sovereign
3. Challenger 604
5. Legacy 600
Top 5 Turboprop models chartered in Africa (short-haul flights)
1. Cessna Caravan 208B
2. Cessna Caravan 208B EX
3. King Air B200
4. King Air 200
5. PC-12 NG