Back in 2007 its founder was told that “no-one will ever book a private jet online”, but PrivateFly proved the critics wrong and has seen over one million flight searches on its website during 2016. The private jet booking service announces the growth milestone as it releases its industry predictions for 2017.
Adam Twidell, PrivateFly’s founder and CEO comments: “While topline demand for private jet travel has remained flat since the recession, there are fundamental shifts taking place in how our industry sells itself. 2017 may be a year of uncertainty due to the political climate, but will also see a number of exciting developments.
“Technology is driving many of these changes. Our website visitors have searched one million times this year for instant prices, up by a massive 261% from our own search numbers in 2013, and we’ve seen an average growth rate of 53% over the last three years.
“This is proof that a new era of tech-driven private jet booking is firmly here and our flight sales are following the same growth curve. 2016 was a year when we flew more customers, to more places, than ever before."
Here, PrivateFly offers its private jet trends for 2017.
1) Long range fliers will fly further
2017 will see a move towards more private jet customers wanting to fly further non-stop, particularly routes from the US West Coast to Europe faster. So we’ll see an increase in popularity for the aircraft that can offer this. Gulfstream's ultra long range G650ER grabs the headlines for its 7500 nautical mile range enabling it to fly non-stop from LA to Melbourne, but rival Dassault's Falcon 8X will also become available for charter in 2017, and comes close with a range of 6450 nautical miles.
2) The changing face of the private jet customer
A business jet user is now just as likely to work in scientific recruitment, or produce brake fluids, as they are to work in The City or the entertainment industry. And for leisure, it’s not just the super rich, but also the family willing to pay a premium to escape today's congested airline experience. More accessibility and competitive pricing is changing the face of the private jet customer and we’ll see this continue to develop in 2017.
3) Geopolitical uncertainty will require agility
It has been a turbulent year politically-speaking and the business impact of a Trump presidency, Brexit and more are still to be fully felt. There is a lot of uncertainty, but what’s clear is that it will be the companies that stay agile and can react quickly to change that will be ride out the storm. Both the industries that use business aviation for their travel, and private jet companies themselves.
4) Entry-point price will fall with single-engine turboprops set to fly
With the Civil Aviation Authority and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) set to approve these cost-effective aircraft for commercial charter in 2017, desirable turboprop aircraft such as the Pilatus PC-12 will compete with small jets to drive down the private aviation entry point price even further.
5) Clearer definition of types of ‘private jet’ travel
There’s much experimentation taking place with business models, and we've seen a lot of media attention given to shuttle or sharing services, which promise a 'private jet', but on fixed routes and pre-defined schedules – and charge an annual membership fee. This is a very different offering to chartering your own private aircraft on a fully-flexible, pay-as-you-go basis.
6. Remote destination and bespoke travel will grow in appeal
There is a growing demand for travel to remote and far-flung locations, and for exclusive-use travel experiences. These are two clear travel industry trends, indicated by Virtuouso’s recent Luxe report. The new Blink service from one of our travel agency partners, Black Tomato, which promises to create the most personalised luxury travel experience imaginable. This is good news for private aviation, which is well-placed to meet this brief. So I think we’ll see growth in leisure demand to hard-to-reach places in 2017.
7. More change in the profile and behaviour of the private jet customer
At PrivateFly we see demand from some of the traditional sectors and clients that use private jets – the finance industry; oil and gas, sports & entertainment…and from high net worth individuals for leisure travel. But there is a shift and we are now just as likely to fly clients who work in scientific recruitment, or manufacture brake fluids, and from tech entrepreneurs booking their own travel from their mobile, rather than through a PA using a desktop. And in leisure, from the special occasion traveller and those who are looking for something more than today’s congested airline experience. New players in private charter like PrivateFly are now gaining a matured understanding of what the customer wants – an integrated, multi-channel offering that allows them to secure the best prices, take-off fast, and have expert advice at their disposal 24/7. We’ll keep listening to those changing demands, and analysing private jet customer behaviour, in 2017.
8. Increased take up of accreditation programs
Argus and Wyvern are the primary accreditation programs that evaluate charter operators and their aircraft. As PrivateFly grows in the US, we’ve seen how important these voluntary benchmarks of safety and quality are to the US private jet customer. PrivateFly receives Certified Broker award from Argus President, Joe Moeggenberg PrivateFly is one of only a handful of Argus Certified Brokers, but more will follow in 2017. Brokers are also becoming more regulated and currently only a handful have achieved the new ARGUS Certified Broker status so far, including PrivateFly (we were the second in Europe and first in the UK). This is a regulatory certification which affirms a broker’s commitment to air charter safety and best practices over a long period of time. European customers have a lower awareness of accreditation in business aviation, but I think we’ll see this change in 2017. These programs which will become essential to commercial success.
9. Ultra long range will take over
Some of the most popular long business jets in the charter market still require a fuel stop on longer journeys – Gulfstream’s popular GIV family for example, which offers good availability and price. But I think 2017 will see a move towards private jet customers wanting to fly from the US West Coast to Europe faster, and without a fuel stop. On the existing charter market, we’re likely to see the GV family overtake the GIV for this reason. And new aircraft are also moving in this direction. While Gulfstream’s ultra long range G650ER grabs the headline, rival Dassault’s Falcon 8X will become available for charter in 2017, and comes close with a maximum range of 6450nm.
10. Clearer definition of private jet travel models
There’s currently a lot of experimentation taking place with business models in our industry. In particular, we’ve seen a lot of media attention given to private jet shuttle or sharing services, which promise a ‘private jet’ experience, but on fixed routes and pre-defined schedules. This is opening up the customer base for the whole charter industry, so it’s great to see this innovation taking place. But what I do think we need – and will see – in 2017 is clearer definition of the growing sub-categories within private jet travel. Some models are a lifestyle membership service with an annual fee, and work much like a gym membership model – dependent on low take up of flights from lots of members, as there isn’t enough inventory for them all to fly regularly. So this can result in availability issues and not meeting customer expectations. Ad hoc private charter – the sub-sector we operate in – is very different. The price point may be higher, but it’s a truly private experience, with higher service levels, no availability issues and a totally flexible schedule. A ‘private jet’ comes with a set of customer expectations about service and delivery. So we need to make sure customers understand what they’re getting.
Twidell continues: "It’s great to see innovation taking place, but a blurring of private jet and airline models can be confusing to customers. A 'private jet' comes with a set of customer expectations about service levels and delivery that some of these newer membership models can struggle to meet. In 2017 we’ll see customers demanding more clarity on what they're getting.”