Ultra-rich turn to private jets for holidays as business travel drops

The ultra-rich in the US have been hiring private jets from UK-listed Air Partner to go away on their holidays at a rate high enough to offset the firm’s drop in business travellers.

Air Partner said that in the first six months of the year bookings in the US were higher than before the pandemic.

It said strong demand from high net-worth individuals wanting to travel for leisure had made up for the fall recorded in business travel.

But it has been a different story in Europe, where activity “remains limited”, Air Partner said in an update to shareholders on Friday.

Shares soared 7.8% on Friday morning after the update, which also revealed that the business expects to confirm it made £3.7 million in underlying pre-tax profit in the six months to the end of July.

Bosses told shareholders that the business “continues to trade strongly despite the travel restrictions and the general uncertainty arising from the Covid-19 pandemic”.

They added: “We continue to see a strong recovery in our private jets division. The UK has exceeded pre-Covid levels over the summer months as we have welcomed a number of first-time private jet flyers, in addition to seeing increased demand from many of our existing customers.”

The business runs a private jet travel card, which allows customers to load these up in a similar way to how public transport users can charge an Oyster card in London.

Customers buy flying hours on their card and can then book a private jet with just one day’s notice and use the hours they have accrued.

Air Partner said that the cards had done well in the first half of the financial year. Global bookings were up 46% and the number of new members rose 71% compared to the same period last year.

Deposits on the cards have also risen by 130% in total compared to last year, Air Partner added.