Alina Gavrushenko, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Monarch Air Group, shares her thoughts on the industry’s historic year fueled by its resilience and superior flexibility.
How private aviation increased demand
When your sales have increased by more than 120% compared to 2020, you can safely say that you had a good year. That was the case in 2021 for Monarch Air Group, which saw record domestic movements in the US. So did major players in the industry, driven by the inefficiency of commercial aviation during the pandemic and changing passenger expectations, who sought a safer and more efficient way to travel, with fewer touchpoints and reliable service.
With commercial aviation almost completely grounded in the early stages of 2021, private aviation was the best option for people who needed to travel. Record numbers were achieved each month of 2021, with Florida, unsurprisingly, leading the way as the state with the most moves. In addition, this increased demand caused a marked shift in the type of aircraft being booked, with light and medium jets flying through the air rather than larger heavy aircraft.
Smaller jets in the sky
The earlier trend is explained by the increase in domestic travel, which requires shorter routes and fewer passengers per flight. In fact, as of early 2021, for Monarch Air Group, 55% of chartered private jets are light or medium aircraft, compared to just 14% of super-midsize and larger aircraft. Turboprops were also a top option due to their versatility and lower operating costs, accounting for 27% of all charter bookings for the year.
Interestingly, while international charter travel has yet to reach pre-Covid levels, Monarch Air Group hasn’t quite. The reason? Based in Fort Lauderdale, the Caribbean is about a two-hour drive from South Florida and can be reached by a wide variety of aircraft, especially those that are cost-efficient in operation. Our top destination from the US to the Caribbean in 2021 was the Bahamas, followed by the Turks and Caicos Islands, the US Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Dominican Republic.
The rise of first-time private jet pilots
The increase in demand due to the pandemic resulted in a record number of first-time private fliers. The majority of them were former commercial passengers who chose the shift because of safety and reliability. For them, private aviation meant a flexible means of transportation, free of the usual airport crowds and hassles, and far away from potential virus infections thanks to a controlled preflight and postflight travel experience. This shows a great opportunity and challenge for the entire industry as we need to understand how to continuously meet the expectations of the new consumers while exceeding those of the frequent flyers. It’s a great place to be, if you ask me…
The end of 2021 also registered a rise in private travel to hot-weather places. After more than two years of lockdown, people felt the need for a well-deserved reboot and travel is, as usual, the perfect medicine. Snowbirds flying from Canada and New York to South Florida started to pick up before Thanksgiving, and bookings for Christmas and New Years are now a major trend demonstrating the good health of the industry.
In addition, as vaccination campaigns continue to increase worldwide and travel restrictions are lifted, the need for face-to-face affairs will soon take shape again. This trend started in the US at the end of 2021, but is also expected to continue in international charter flights, especially for transatlantic flights. Although the emergence of new variants could interrupt that possibility in the countries most affected. That is definitely something to keep track of.
In summary, 2021 was a good year for private aviation. The industry learned to adapt to the pandemic at an early stage and then thrive thanks to its signature flexibility, security and diversification. At Monarch Air Group, we expect this rise to continue as the industry as a whole has in some sense passed the test with flying colors, demonstrating its added value and how incomparable it is to commercial aviation in terms of customization, reliability and safety. We will continue to place the needs of our passengers at the core of our bottom line as there is no other way to establish lasting, trust-based relationships with our diverse stakeholders.