Flying Private in the Time of Covid-19

The pandemic and the ease of an airborne ride-sharing app have fuelled the democratisation of private jet use in Australia.

Article by Craig Tansley

Airly allows its members to book a seat on a private jet using an app. Image courtesy of Airly.

While nothing defines wealth more than a private jet, very few Australians ever used them. Until now. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia’s fastest-growing private aviation company is one that allows its members to book a seat on a private jet using an app, much the same way they might order an Uber.

Airly says it doubled its memberships (which are free) in the 2020/21 financial year and has seen an 84% increase for this financial year. Some of that can be attributed to the crippling effects of Covid-19 restrictions on airlines, coupled with our collective avoidance of public indoor places. In June 2020, private jet use in the US was up 500 per cent on the previous year, with Southeast Asia noting an increase of 150 per cent during the same period.

Airly’s ongoing rise in popularity is thanks to its smart sharing system, whereby clients can fly on a private jet for $1795 — and sometimes less. All members need to do on the Shared program is enter their desired route into the app to match other members who need a flight. Airly guests can arrive just 20 minutes before their flight and head straight to a private lounge, skipping the indignities and hassles of the typical airport experience.

A seat from Sydney to Ballina/Byron Bay can cost as little as $1795 with Airly, while members can fly from Sydney to Cooma, with a VIP transfer to the ski fields at Thredbo, and get change from $1200 each way.

“While we’re a very wealthy nation per capita, we’re also very frugal,” Airly CEO Luke Hampshire says. “But because of our model and its transparency, we’ve saved private jet charter clients thousands of dollars because we can on-sell their empty leg or feed their flight into an existing aircraft’s schedule.”

Hampshire says the boom in popularity isn’t just within the business sector. He notes there have been as many families and groups of friends using the service. “People used to think it was just the rich and famous who took private jets,” he says. “But now there’s private aviation that’s more accessible, and as the education of the market matures and more new business models launch, I’m sure we’ll see more and more people using private jets in the future.”