With commercial airlines engulfed by the maelstrom of the coronavirus pandemic one sector of the industry favored by the wealthy is thriving: private jets.
Fears of massive bankruptcies and calls for emergency bailouts have swept global carriers in recent days with one top US official warning that the outbreak threatens the industry even more than the September 11 attacks.
But for Richard Zaher, CEO of a US-based private jet charter company, the emails and phone calls just keep coming.
“Inquiries have gone through the roof,” he told AFP, noting his company Paramount Business Jets had seen a 400 percent increase in queries, with bookings up roughly 20-25 percent.
“It is completely coronavirus,” he added.
“We are seeing our regular private jet clients flying as they normally do. However, we have this surge of clients coming our way and the majority of them have never flown private.”
Across the world airlines have been slashing capacity and passengers cancelling travel plans as countries block arrivals to stem the spread of COVID-19.
ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company, estimates as many as 3.3 million seats on transatlantic flights alone are disappearing.
Zaher said many new bookings were from clients who had emergencies and either could not find seats on commercial routes or did not want to risk them.
One recent booking involved a woman who flew her elderly mother across the United States.
“Her mum was on oxygen and needed to be flown coast to coast,” Zaher said.
“They felt it was necessary to pay a premium in order to avoid flying commercial and to be together during this uncertain time.”