Why is the pandemic causing a shortage of private jets in Austria?
Private jet companies are struggling to buy enough planes to meet the demand for flights in Austria.
Many commercial planes were grounded during the pandemic – about 2,200 million fewer passengers flew last year according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). But the private jet industry is booming.
Globally, the number of business jet flights in November 2021 was nearly 60% higher than the same period in 2020, reports German data research firm WingX.
“It’s very difficult, because of the pandemic, to get planes,” Manuel Gusterer, CEO of private jet charter company OysterJet, said to the AP newswire from Vienna.
“You have to realize that the market is empty: used planes are not available, and even new orders take two to three years at the moment.”
Gusterer says he even receives emails asking if he has a plane for sale.
The environmental cost of jet travel is extremely high. The European Transport and Environment Federation (T&E), which campaigns for clean travel, calculates that private jets are on average ten times more carbon intensive than standard flights, and 50 times more polluting than trains.
So why is the demand for small gas guzzlers soaring?
Who flies in a private jet?
The ranks of the jet set have grown since the start of the pandemic across Europe. But it’s not just champagne and aviator sunglasses.
OysterJets chief pilot Stéphane Larrieu noticed that he was carrying a new type of clientele. Executives of small and medium-sized businesses find jets to be a faster – and often cheaper – way to get their workers from point A to point B.
For example, a business class round trip from Vienna to Zurich can cost more than € 1,000, says Gusterer, compared to around € 6,500 in a small private jet.
Avoiding crowds at the airport, saving time, and being able to choose their destinations more precisely are some of the main reasons other people turn to private air travel.
“We saw two things [since the start of the pandemic], specifies Larrieu, we have seen the arrival of new customers, and a demand rate for flights which has increased considerably and which, moreover, continues to increase.
Contrary to stereotypes, flying in private “is a little less glamorous than one thinks”, adds the pilot.
“Often the flights are rather short and for business purposes. So either people get ready for their meeting or they relax afterwards. “
This means that there is less and less “the champagne aspect”, with business travelers opting instead for sparkling water.
Dominique Schiller, operations manager at Magnum FBO (Fixed-Base Operator) at Vienna VIP Airport, also noticed a wider range of passengers. These include “families who wish to travel on vacation and cannot reach their destination any other way”.
The environmental cost of private jet travel: what needs to be changed?
But despite some changes in the clientele, it is clear that the jet around Europe is not for everyone.
A T&E report last year pointed out that only one percent of the population is responsible for 50 percent of global aviation emissions. More and more wealthy individuals are turning to increasingly large, heavy and therefore even more polluting private jets.
“Business aviation is at a crossroads,” T&E aviation director Jo Dardenne told Euronews Travel.
“It can continue to fly billionaires on polluting planes or it can begin the transition to clean fuels and zero-emission planes.”
Dardenne adds that if current trends continue, business aviation emissions in 2050 could be double what they were in 2010.
“To achieve net zero emissions, governments must enforce the use of clean technology and tax private jet users to finance their deployment.
“Rather than contributing to the problem, billionaires can help ensure the sustainable transition by funding zero-emission planes and ending runaway levels of flight. “
Catherine Livesley, founder of No Fly Travel Club, a travel agency dedicated to delivering sustainable vacations, agrees that appropriate taxation should be levied on private jet companies, “which profit from encouraging an extremely damaging practice.”
“This would pass the true environmental cost of this method of travel onto consumers and hopefully help them think twice. “