Private jets have long been considered to be reserved just for the rich and famous – a luxury many of us could only dream of.
But that is all changing, partly thanks to the coronavirus, according to claims from the 26 year-old chief executive of start-up private charter firm TailHail.
Prices are also down, meaning it is no longer an unachievable dream to travel in style with places on a plane costing just £300 per passenger in some cases, James Moon says.
He claims he is bringing the private aviation industry to the masses with a firm that utilises technology to cut costs – and reduce the damage to the environment.
Private jets will become more commonplace for the average person, according to TailHail
Leaving school at 16 to get his pilot’s licence, the aptly named Moon, who is based in Newcastle, has had a decade’s experience in the aviation industry, turning his attention to the business side of the sector after learning to fly.
Moon said: ‘My background is in aviation, aircraft sales and acquisition in the private sector. I always wanted to become a pilot but realised the money was made elsewhere.’
He first set up a business, AerMoon, which helps buyers with their aircraft sales – an estate agent for planes – which he would make a commission on for every one sold, ranging from one to 7 per cent.
This is now his side project whilst he continues to mentor and grow TailHail, which was launched in February – a month before coronavirus havoc hit the travel industry.
The website works with customers typing in where they want to travel to and from, giving their details.
TailHail will then contact the person directly after receiving the enquiry, offering availability and price, before booking in if the customer wants to go ahead.
Despite the fact that trading began at a very difficult time, with many people stuck at home due to lockdown rules as the coronavirus spread, Moon said the business has done remarkably well.
‘I didn’t think we would have the interest that we saw. I was hoping we would get one or two enquiries but we ended up with lots of queries from customers and businesses both in the UK and the US.
‘I am surprised at the businesses that have enquired – there are a lot of firms you wouldn’t think have the resources to fly privately but they actually can.’
In fact, the coronavirus actually helped speed up business as more and more people decided to invest in flying privately for their own health and safety.
Evidence that, on average, there are 300 touch points on the average aircraft whereas on private jet there is only 7 could be a contributing factor to why the private jet business is garnering interest.
Last week specialist company Air Partner told the Consumer Trends column that business was booming thanks to ‘safety, convenience, and flexibility’.
26-year-old, James Moon, set up TailHail as a way for customers to fly privately with ease
‘Covid-19 has definitely been a factor – it has pushed more people towards flying privately as they are putting their health first.
‘One of the main attractions is that people can avoid the crowds at the main terminals leaving as minimal contact as possible.’
On average, the company is now organising 40 to 45 flights a week for customers.
Aircraft owners looking to lease out their planes will contact TailHail, giving their availability and fee, which will then appear on the website. Most of the aircrafts will come with a pilot that is used to driving that specific plane.
The operation works well for both parties as it ‘puts bums on seats’ when the aircraft is otherwise not used and allows the owners to make money.
It also helps fills the ’empty leg’ slots where a flight is made one way but will be waiting for a few days for the return. In the spare days, the aircraft can be utilised elsewhere.
The price of renting a private jet differs dramatically depending on a customer’s destination
The demographic of said customers is incredibly varied, according to Moon, with both new and experienced private jet fliers booking places.
He said: ‘When we set out, our target demographic was from millennials to the retired. We quickly found that normal, ordinary people are enquiring.
‘I’m currently organising a charter for 60 people to fly from Newcastle to Munich. It works out that their charter will be cheaper per person than an EasyJet ticket.’
Price is one of the main factors likely to stop people enquiring about private flying – but exactly how much does it cost?
Whilst it varies dramatically depending on your destination, Moon said a flight from Newcastle to Munich with 60 people, as mentioned above, would cost each passenger £300.
The difference between this and a normal flight however is that each passenger will be given champagne, meals and swift boarding all included in the price.
And the more people on board, the cheaper a flight will be.
The cost increases in line with how small an aircraft is, for example, flying from London to Spain on an eight-seater aircraft will range anywhere from £10,000 to £14,000 return.
For Zurich to South of France in a small aircraft will cost just under £9,000 return whilst Zurich to Edinburgh would cost around £16,000 for a return flight.
To charter a plane to travel over the Atlantic would cost just under six figures – a lot of money for anybody.
Moon said: ‘We have many requests for flights to Zurich for businesses but requests to travel over the Atlantic are few and far between. Our aircrafts range from smaller to larger with some having sofas and mini rooms on board.’
The cheapest flights are, unsurprisingly, domestic but the most popular routes include travel from Newcastle to Ibiza, Newcastle to Palma and Newcastle to Alicante.
TailHail has also seen a lot of Spain and European enquiries, including those wanting to travel to Portugal, before the situation worsened.
Major capital cities are also popular destinations with individuals looking to fly from Dublin to Paris, London to New York and London to Los Angeles.
TailHail has seen a lot of European enquiries, including those wanting to travel to Portugal
Moon admits that the way Uber operates was an inspiration for how he wanted TailHail to grow.
For example, he has adapted similar features including ride sharing and the ability to see if there is transport nearby.
Moon said: ‘In the business aviation sector, technology is poor and firms are not using it enough. When our proper website and app launches later this year, it will show case the technology TailHail has invested in.’
TailHail has been funded by Moon and five other investors, all of whom take an active role in the running of the company.
All are looking to tackle one of the main concerns of flying privately which is the negative impact it can have on the environment. This is something Moon is very aware of and working to change through the introduction of flight sharing.
Exactly as it sounds, flight sharing allows different businesses or members of the public to share a chartered flight if there is spare room.
This not only reduces the cost per passenger, it also means there are less individual planes flying thus helping keep down a person’s carbon footprint.
Moon said: ‘With flight sharing, there is less of an environmental impact and it is very competitive from a price prospective.’
Safety is another important concern – especially after there have been a number of high profile light aircraft crashes in recent times, including the deaths of basketball player, Kobe Bryant and Leicester City owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
‘Every aircraft owner has to upload safety documents to our website and we conduct very stringent checks. Similarly, we do the same checks on the pilots taking charge.’
The firm is now available around the globe and will soon launch an easy to use app to help even more people experience private flying.
Looking forward, Moon believes that the future of private air travel is bright.
‘I do see this lasting for some time and I think we will see lots of private flyers. I don’t think people have unlocked the potential of the sector. It is certainly an interesting time for us.
‘I am very conscious of making it more sustainable moving forward. This means using more sustainable fuels and reducing our impact on the environment as much as possible.’
However, there are still major concerns regarding the current recession, the continuing impact of the coronavirus and quarantine measures.
Moon added: ‘Airlines are haemorrhaging cash – they will continue to struggle in the winter months and will likely reduce their operations.
‘My concern as a business is what the threat of the recession might it be. It is likely some firms will cut back on travel, giving less business to the private aviation sector.’