Demand for jets surges 87.5%, but warning over environmental impact
Travel frustration has been dominating the headlines lately, but interest in one sector of the aviation industry is taking off.
Once considered a luxury for the rich and famous, the demand for private flights from Irish airports has increased 87.5% in the first four months of this year.
Keith McKay, business development manager at Woodgate Aviation Operations, said: “We have seen a noticeable increase in both enquiries and private air transport movements.
“Belfast International is the third busiest on the island for private aviation after Dublin and Shannon.”
Popular destinations include East Midlands, London Stansted, Birmingham, Keflavik (Iceland) and London Luton, the company says.
This recent surge in chartered flights appears to be a global trend. According to WingX’s global market tracker, there were 3.3 million private flights worldwide in 2021, the highest recorded for a single year — a 7% increase on the previous record set in 2019.
Mr McKay added: “We have seen increased numbers of private jets using Woodgate’s VIP private jet handling services. In a post-Covid world, private charters offer a more socially-distanced way of travel and address reduced airline route availability and limited schedules.”
Quotations are usually dependent on clients’ needs, with estimates often in the thousands for premium packages.
Recently, lower-cost operator Belfast Jet has taken to posting empty seats on their Facebook page, with flights to Manchester advertised for £350 per couple. Belfast to London was advertised at £650.
There are also other additional costs to consider when it comes to private transportation.
A recent report by Transport & Environment, an NGO campaigning for cleaner transport, found that private jets are five to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger) and 50 times more polluting than trains.
It said: “Aviation’s climate impact is disproportionate and growing fast, but it is caused by a very small group of people. Just 1% of people cause 50% of global aviation emissions.
“Private jets have a disproportionate impact on the environment. In just one hour, a single private jet can emit two tonnes of CO2. The average person in the EU emits 8.2 tCO2eq over the course of an entire year.”
Private flights have long been used by businesspeople and the wealthy.
Several high-profile names having faced scrutiny for their lavish travel expenses.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss defended her decision to fly privately to Australia earlier this year at an estimated cost of £500,000 to the taxpayer — a move that Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner branded “obscene”.
Mr McKay said: “Business aviation is a sector with limitless potential.
“It’s a specialised travel solution enabling people or businesses to meet face-to-face when time matters most.
“It allows passengers to have full control over their schedules and travel to at least three or more destinations within Europe than scheduled airlines.
“It connects many communities and local airports, improving regional connectivity. In Northern Ireland for example, it also caters for high-value tourism, especially in the luxury tourism and golf markets.
“Business and general aviation also includes medical evacuation services including Air Ambulance operations.”
A new all-island body, the Irish Business and General Aviation Association, has been set up in recent months to represent the private sector, with a formal launch expected in November.
Mr McKay said he was “delighted” to be a founding board member, adding: “The association will look at ways of expanding the sector and attracting an increased share of international private air traffic to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”