Due to Covid-19, private jet travel has been on the rise. More people feel safer on a private plane, checking in and out of private air strips, and avoiding the masses both at airports and on flights. But there is one disadvantage to flying a private jet right now during Covid-19, and it may have travelers reconsider booking the privilege of private jet travel.
Many companies offer private jet travel for short distances, like Los Angeles to Palm Springs, New York City to Hamptons, and Dallas to Houston. While these trips will depart and arrive in private air strips or smaller airports that have a dedicated terminal, travelers will have the luxury of avoiding crowds.
Passengers will also be relieved to know they will either have access to private TSA staff with no long lines through checkpoints and security. Getting in and out is a breeze, and since smaller jets can only have a handful of passengers, you can bet there will be no lines to board the craft.
However, there’s one problem after passengers board: The aircraft is tiny.
Many private jets going on short-haul distances have limited capacity, often up to 8 passengers (a midsized jet can have up to 12 people).
Depending on the size of the jet, you could be in closer quarters to other passengers than you would think, which doesn’t give much peace of mind to passengers worrying about Covid-19, especially since masks on private jets are generally not required.
As of press time, no private jet company in the US require passengers to wear masks. Wheels up “strongly recommends” passenger wear masks during boarding, briefing and deboarding, but that’s all.
Surf Air based out of California has not listed any mask safety instructions or requirements for passengers on its website. XO, another private jet charter, does not require passengers to wear masks (though crew is required). This is just one disadvantage to flying a private jet right now during Covid-19.
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Here’s the other disadvantage to flying a short haul private jet. Unlike a commercial airline, passengers on a private jet can not physically stand up or move around.
The capacity of a private jet interior feels like the entire business class of a domestic American Airlines flight, so the space is already limited, but the ceiling of the private jet is much lower. This means, if you’re over 6 feet, you will likely have to hunch if you’re standing up. The interior of a small private jet is cramped, so you can’t get up to walk around, which is short of the nice privilege to stretch your legs on a commercial airline.
Also, private jet bathrooms are incredibly small. it is essentially a toilet boxed into a closet.
While I have flown plenty of small private jets to short haul locations (for instance, San Francisco to Los Angeles), I’ve learned that for future flights, I will have to forfeit any standing room, walking around, and using a bathroom that is incredibly small.
Ultimately, the small space of a private jet, plus the fact you could be cramped with other passengers who may not be wearing a mask, might give you second thought about booking a private jet. But since Covid cases are going down, and pretty much vaccination is going up, you can make the judgment for yourself.
The good news is that private jets have continuous air cabin circulation with outflow valves. This regulates the flow of the air coming out of the cabin, which ensures fresh air circulation to minimize the spread of viruses and bacteria, according to private jet company Globe Air.
Wheels Up website states that the pressurization system on its aircraft fully replenishes the cabin air with fresh outside air every 3 minutes during flight, so a HEPA filter (which commercial jets use) are not needed since the air is not recycled or recirculated.
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There’s been increasing interest in private jet travel during Covid-19. Some companies have been lowering prices (by as much as 80 percent) and brands are partnering with jet companies for private memberships (like Costco offering members a subscription to private jet service Wheels Up).
This story was originally published December 2, 2020.
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