Private air travel is prospering under the pandemic.
In fact, interest is so high that many private jet companies have a different problem of their hands:.
Private aviation company VistaJet said new memberships for the first half of 2021 are up 53% compared to 2020, with Europe bringing in the greatest number of new members (51%) during this period.
“It’s no surprise that searches for ‘charter travel’ have increased by 520% over the last 12 months,” said Naveen Dittakavi, CEO of the flight website. “Searches for ‘if you wanted to take a private plane’ have increased by 1,100% in the past 12 months worldwide.”
Most people who can afford to fly privately don’t, said Gregg Brunson-Pitts, founder of, a Virginia-based private jet broker. The pandemic caused some of those people to book private jets, many for the very first time.
“People … have come off the sidelines,” he said. “It wasn’t just the wealthy people with means —governments were using them. They were a way to move around supplies so our business picked up pretty rapidly even during the shutdown.”
When asked who is considered as someone able to afford private travel, Gregg Brunson-Pitts said “maybe someone with a net worth of $5 million or more.”
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Brunson-Pitts, who was the director of the Travel Office at the White House during President George W. Bush’s second term in office, acknowledged charter jet pricing isn’t as transparent as commercial flying. But there are reasons for this, he said.
Unlike a commercial flight — where passengers are flying on the same plane at the same time on the same date — charter jets vary considerably by size and service (none vs. “VIP catering and flight attendants”), said Brunson-Pitts. Due to rising demand, flexibility around travel dates also affects prices, he said.
As such, a flight for a family of four from New York City to Washington, D.C., could easily vary from $10,000 to $50,000, he said, depending on customers’ requirements.
To get a broader idea around prices, CNBC spoke with newly converted private flyers about how much they paid for their first flights during the pandemic.
“Beyond the incalculable time savings, my safety and that of my family and team come first,” he said. “It has been one of the best business and personal decisions I’ve made.”
. He flew from Bali to the country’s capital city of Jakarta.
“As a person with high mobility … time efficiency is also the key factor,” he said.
As to whether he plans to continue flying privately after the pandemic wanes: “Yes, definitely.”
, runs about $1,600 an hour, he said. He paid $8,000 for a round-trip flight from Boca Raton, Florida, to Teterboro, New Jersey, for his first flight.
Sadaka said private jet travel “takes all the stress out of travel.” Now, he said, he’s not going back.
“I can arrive five minutes before takeoff, a car is waiting at my destination, and I don’t have to worry about cancellations,” he said. “I can travel on my schedule, even if it changes.”