Wealthy travelers and major corporate clients are rejecting commercial airline travel and looking to private jets as a way to isolate themselves from the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The uptick in interest comes as more airlines cut scheduled flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong in the wake of the spread of the disease that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
UK-based consultancy Ascend by Cirium said the number of flights scheduled to operate to, from and within China had dropped by 34 percent from Jan. 23 through Feb. 11, Reuters reports.
At the same time the number of deaths and new cases spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed the way they count infections in a move that will likely fuel speculation that the severity of the outbreak has been under-reported.
The hard-hit central province of Hubei reported 242 deaths in just one day and 14,840 new patients — by far its biggest one-day tally since the crisis erupted last month. The jump raised the death toll to 1,355 and the total number of nationwide infections to nearly 60,000.
China has now placed some 56 million in virtual quarantine in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, since late last month and restricted movements of millions more in cities far from the epicentre in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.
As those restrictions bite, more elite fliers are looking to private jets as a way to exit to China or conduct their activities across the globe, executives say.
For others, flying privately has always been a way of life.
Global Warming lectures for us, private jet rides for her–THAT’s the Elizabeth Warren way! https://t.co/GRNeQE0xRS
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 5, 2020
A South American government asked PrivateFly, a global booking service for charter flights, to set up four flights out of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, although the request might not be possible, chief executive Adam Twidell told Reuters.
Jackie Wu, president of Hong Kong-based JetSolution Aviation Group, said her company had received a “significant increase of private flight charter requests,” from Asia.
The requests are mostly for flights departing from Hong Kong or China to destinations like Auckland, Taipei, Phnom Penh, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
She said she cannot fulfill about half of those requests because of travel bans on visitors from China, but the enquiries keep coming no matter, according to the Reuters report.
A similar flood of interest came back in 2014 when fear of the deadly virus Ebola and instability around the world pushed demand for private jet charter flights to new levels.
As Breitbart News has reported, private jet demand has never been stronger as their sales continue to defy expectations, with private jet lovers will fork out a combined $248 billion over the next ten years, buying 7,600 private planes
The users span private, corporate, and government clients including the United Nations and the European Union as well as politicians on the campaign trail.
What a fraud. https://t.co/CZQDEiIvSe
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 6, 2020
The new private jets are expected to be bought by multinational companies and the super-rich over the next decade, each of which will burn 40 times as much carbon per passenger as regular commercial flights, predicted a report by aviation firm Honeywell Aerospace.
About 690 new business jets took to take to the skies in 2019 alone, a nine percent increase on 2018, as businesses and the wealthy refresh their fleets with new models released by three of the world’s biggest private jet manufacturers.
AFP contributed to this report