As Congress considers a coronavirus relief funding package for commercial airlines like American Airlines Group (NASDAQ:AAL) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), private jet operators are hoping to get in on the action. The National Business Aviation Association, a group representing the private and corporate jet industry, sent a letter to Senate and House leaders on March 19 requesting access to "the same programs" provided to major carriers, including "medium to long-term liquidity assistance and relief from air transportation excise taxes."
The letter was also signed by groups representing other general aviation classes like helicopter operators and experimental-aircraft owners. It cited "increasing financial uncertainty" and warned that travel restrictions "have the potential to cause even more significant harm to these companies as this crisis continues."
A spike in business
However, many private jet operators have seen business surge as wealthy individuals and corporations avoid commercial flights.
Joshua Herbert, CEO of Magellan Jets, said in a statement that "businesses who traditionally flew their executives on first-class are now finding it safer and more economical to fly ... on a private aircraft." He added that Magellan had seen "an influx in new charter customers from people who would have normally flown commercially."
UK-based PrivateFly also reported "a significant rise in demand for short notice on-demand private jet charter, relating to the Coronavirus."
However, as corporations cancel nonessential travel and international flights are banned, that could change. Some of the recent spike in business may have been from companies and wealthy individuals attempting to quickly evacuate employees or family members from coronavirus-affected regions.
A bailout for private jet companies serving the wealthy would likely be more politically unpopular than helping financially strapped legacy carriers like American and Delta, which serve the general public and employ tens of thousands of people each.