Private aviation provider XO has experienced a 99% year-over-year increase in shared private jet flights from New York to South Florida this year. Rajat Khurana, chief commercial officer, speaks to Globetrender about emerging trends in the US private jet charter market.
How has the pandemic affected XO?
The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the organic expansion we were seeing before. XO has seen significant growth in flight and membership inquiries from new clients across demography and industries.
Some of our newest clients have experienced flying private, but many are new to the world of private aviation entirely. We have also seen a significant uptick in flight activity among our legacy customers, who are increasing their usage of our private aviation even as more and more Americans get vaccinated.
What shifts in private jet usage have you observed?
XO has seen a tremendous increase in private jet travel. Our triple-digit growth report includes 298 per cent year-over-year increase in purchases of our deposit memberships in Q1 2021, including a 170 per cent year-over-year increase from March 2020 to March 2021.
These memberships represent a large financial commitment and are indicative of the strength of demand. We’ve also seen an increase of 225 per cent shared flight revenue year-over-year in March, and a 120 per cent uptick year-over-year in Q1, making a 39 per cent increase in total shared flight revenue compared to Q4 of 2020. [XO sells seats on private jets, as well as offering entire private jet charters.]
Additionally, family travel between New York and South Florida is up 25 per cent from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021, with a 99 per cent year-over-year increase in shared flights and a 50 per cent increase in charter flights year-over-year.
Lastly, we’ve seen a 47 per cent increase in instant in-app bookings, while flight searches in-app increased by 22 per cent in Q1, demonstrating the adoption of our leading-edge technology.
What are the most popular routes in the US for 2021?
Leading the list of most booked flight destinations for the summer are to New York City, the Hamptons, and South Florida.
In fact, there has been a 99% year-over-year increase in shared flights from New York to South Florida. Additional top destinations include Los Angeles, Boston, Cape Cod, Aspen, Chicago, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Washington.
What are your predictions for the remainder of 2021, 2022 and beyond in relation to private jet flyers?
Private aviation is and will continue to experience a new era of growth in the remaining years of this decade, and beyond. Commercial airlines have greatly reduced flights to less-populated regions, allowing private aviation to lead the charge with business travel, as they enable flights to every single airport in the country.
Obviously, the pandemic has focused businesses on employee health and wellness like never before. This combination of reduced commercial options – and focus on wellness and privacy – will enable XO, and its parent company Vista Global, to lead this market transformation with our unparalleled products and technology.
To accelerate that, XO has completely digitised the private aviation experience by providing end-to-end solutions from full private charters to a single shared seat on an existing flight, all at competitive, market-favorable prices.
With the dynamic world we are living now, it’s always tricky to enter the prediction game. However, given XO’s experience, insight, and the data we see from our community of flyers, we are confident in these predictions. What we’re seeing is the emergence of new “flyorities” – changes in behavior that we believe are here to stay.
Some of these changes include how business travellers will fly less and fly better in terms of utilising remote meetings more, and travelling only when needed. At XO, we’ve seen a 39 per cent increase in business travel in April 2021 because nothing can take the place of face-to-face meetings.
Another prediction includes an increase in private flying by specific industry segments. For example, at XO, we’ve seen an 80 per cent increase from the entertainment industry, a 40 per cent life in hospitality, and an enormous 300 per cent lift in biotechnology.
The benefits of private aviation – including the reduced stress and anxiety burden on key executives – are agnostic to industry sectors.
Are you seeing certain demographics chartering jets for the first time?
XO has seen an uptick on millennials flying private over the last year. Millennials now represent 25 per cent of first-time charter purchasers, which bodes well for the future. We believe that millennials especially appreciate the on-demand access, the seamless experience, and the productivity benefits.
What are you doing to win new clients?
Private aviation customers are sophisticated buyers. We are winning them for all the reasons that differentiate our service and support, as well as the recent additions to our Dedicated fleet. Sophisticated buyers know the benefits that a dedicated fleet brings.
XO’s parent company, Vista Global announced the addition of 15 Citation light jets to its Dedicated Fleet – creating an entirely new aircraft category for the brand. The acquisition of these iconic refurbished aircraft represent the answer for all those looking to meet their short-distance travel needs due to the uptick in private travel amid the pandemic
This move provides our flyers access to a wider breadth of midsize, super midsize, and heavy jets. The acquisition also brought trusted aircraft operator Talon Air into our fold, providing aircraft management services to XO Members who wish to own their aircraft.
The rise of private jet travel has been on a constant incline, and to accommodate both new and existing XO customers, the expansion of the fleet will fill the void of those wanting to travel to closer destinations at the touch of their fingertips.
What innovations are you promoting currently?
XO is offering members the option to offset the carbon emissions of their flight, with 100 per cent of your contributions going towards Climate Action projects around the world. Whenever a flight is booked through XO’s mobile app or website, there is the option to purchase certified carbon credits which is a certificate that corresponds to the removal of one metric ton of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.
Private aviation is a great privilege, but it is one that also carries its own set of responsibilities. XO enables our flyers to take responsibility for the impact of their flight, and contribute positively to the communities and environments in some of the destinations we serve.
How have your prices been affected by the pandemic?
Despite the increase in demand for private jets, our pricing has remained the same.
XO offers a variety of membership tiers – from first time flyers to jetsetters. Our most affordable and accessible option is the RISE membership, which is US$595/year. The entry-level programme introduces new or unexperienced flyers with the service, flexibility and quality of private travel.