Business Jet Owners Holding On To Their Airplanes

Will business aviation lead the return to air travel?

Business jets like the Hawker 850XP are proving to be extremely valuable to their owners.Pixabay

When the Great Recession hit the United States just more than a decade ago, the media was ripe with stories of companies dumping their airplanes faster than McDonalds flips burgers. That flurry of sales—roughly one in five airplanes—followed the PR nightmare created after a number of automakers flew their business jets to Washington to ask for a government bailout.

Now, in 2020, the economic mess is far more serious than in 2008, but reactions from corporate America appear far different according to a news release from industry strategist Brian Foley. “So far, you can’t pry private jets from owners’ hands despite crazy economic gyrations that would normally spook them into selling, and a business jet fleet that’s essentially been sitting idle awaiting lockdown orders to be lifted.” Foley’s company delivers strategic research and guidance to the aerospace industry. In a news release, Foley said, “despite stock markets again plunging due to the worldwide pandemic, the number of business jets on the used market has remained remarkably steady.” Foley reported statistics from private aircraft fleet statistic provider AMSTAT detailing that roughly 9.8 percent of the world fleet was for sale pre-virus. “Today…that number has blipped up to just 10.3 percent—effectively unchanged and still on the low end of used aircraft supply even in normal times.”

What’s different this time? Foley thinks one reason is because the average business jet owner “typically travels on a private jet at most with a couple of people they know, handily beating the alternative of being trapped for hours in an airliner with multitudes of strangers of unknown health pedigrees.” He said that because of this, he assumes the business aviation industry will recover more quickly than the airlines since people travelling on private aircraft will feel safer taking to the skies sooner. Foley added, “It’s [also] likely charter and other non-ownership business models will see an uptick from well-heeled newcomers willing to pay a premium to avoid the airliner petri dish experience.”