Coronavirus triggers boom in private jet inquiries
Private jet operators have seen a big spike in requests from passengers wanting to charter their own planes during the coronavirus outbreak.
With airlines scaling back flights in and out of China, some travellers are stuck inside or outside the country.
The wealthy ones are turning to private jet operators to ask them to arrange flights, despite the huge costs.
But the companies are having to turn them away due to travel bans and a lack of available planes and crews.
Australia-based Darin Voyles, of Paramount Business Jets, said the firm had seen a ''considerable uptick'' in requests, but the majority can't be filled as they can't get the crew or planes.
"Many simply do not want to send their aircraft and crews into mainland China. Aside from the risk of exposure for the crews, the operational and business concern is that when they return from mainland China they will essentially be unable to work for two weeks as they will have to go into quarantine immediately.''
Singapore-based MyJet Asia said it has seen an increase of 80%-90% in the last month. "A lot of people went away for Chinese New Year and are now struggling to get back to China," said Logan Ravishkansar, chief executive of MyJet Asia. Many have asked to be flown back to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
"But we are massively restricted on where we can fly to, while the airlines are not letting us charter their planes despite the money," he added.
Other travellers are desperate to get out of China. A government client from South America asked PrivateFly, a global booking service for charter flights, ''to set up four flights out of Wuhan for hundreds of passengers,'' according to its chief executive Adam Twidell.
The UK-based firm said it has had plenty of other enquiries from private individuals and groups.
A ''very light jet'' can take between two and four passengers, and costs up to $2,400 (£1,850) per hour according to Paramount Business Jets. A "super midsize" jet can seat between eight and 10 people and costs $6,000 an hour.
Global private jet firm VistaJet said it has seen double digit growth in enquiries over the past month even though it has stopped operations to and from China.
"While a large portion of the increase can be related to Chinese New Year travel, we also attribute the growth to customers preferring a private flight rather than a commercial option during a delicate time affected by the coronavirus outbreak," said Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of VistaJet.
Mr Ravishkansar said it was much more straightforward to charter planes during the SARS outbreak of 2003: "We also saw huge demand back then but it was a lot easier to fly in and out of countries. This time around, governments have put on more controls."