Can Flying By Private Jet Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

How Private Air Charters Minimize Contact with Crowds and the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Can Flying By Private Jet Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?
Despite attempts to contain the highly contagious coronavirus to China and Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries “are clearly of concern.” Additional guidance from the WHO followed confirmation of coronavirus cases being spread via person-to-person contact in the U.S. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and President Trump appointing a Coronavirus Task Force. Travelers attempting to navigate concerns about coronavirus are increasingly exploring how private jet travel can prevent the spread of disease by minimizing contact with congested airports and crowds, along with best practices for staying healthy while traveling.

How Private Jets Minimize the Spread of Contagious Diseases like Coronavirus

Reuters reported that, in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, private jets were primarily used to evacuate travelers from China following the suspension of commercial aviation routes. However, Aviation International Online reports, “as the coronavirus has spread to other countries in Asia and beyond, flight requests have increased worldwide.”

Flying private minimizes the spread of diseases by avoiding the most congested airports, eliminating high-touch screenings such as TSA check-points, minimizing contact with other travelers in terminals and on planes, enabling special passport checks and generally using easier-to-clean, less heavily trafficked aircraft.

Here is how flying private can mitigate the spread of coronavirus:

  1. Private Charters Avoid the Most Congested Airports. The WHO recommends maintaining social distancing (i.e., keeping at least 3 feet of distance between yourself and anyone who is couching or sneezing) as a “basic protective measure against the new coronavirus.” Maintaining that level of distance from sick travelers is nearly impossible at the world’s most congested airports where most commercial airlines fly. Because private jets can fly into virtually any airport, including many local and executive airports with shorter runways, private jet travelers are able to avoid the world’s most congested airports (for instance, by flying into Teterboro Airport instead of New York’s JFK or LaGuardia).
  2. Private Jet Travelers Opt Out of TSA Screenings. Despite the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issuing directives to ask passengers about mainland China travel, and the use of expedited screening techniques such as TSA PreCheck, the fact that everyone flying through commercial goes through security screenings places these areas at risk for the spread of communicable diseases. Conversely, private fliers are not required to undergo TSA security screenings, eliminating hygiene concerns over shoe removal, shared bins and close contact with other travelers and screeners.
  3. Private Jet Fliers Embark Directly from Private Terminals. One of the biggest conveniences of private travel is the FBO (fixed base operator, or private terminal), which also serves to minimize contact with potentially infected travelers. Private fliers can drive directly to these discreet, sparsely occupied terminals, park onsite if they like, and relax in an exclusive, calm space. 
  4. Ramp Access allows you to Drive Directly to Your Private Jet. Most FBOs have the capability to work with aviation consultants to arrange ramp access, which allows a car to be driven onto the tarmac directly alongside the jet, avoiding the terminal altogether. This can be an excellent option for
  5. Private Air Charters Allow you to Hand Select Your Fellow Passengers. Instead of sharing a large, cramped commercial aircraft with strangers from all over the world, flying private provides the added assurance that everyone on the passenger manifest is a personal guest. By only traveling with people you know, you can feel more comfortable openly discussing their travel itineraries and any recent illnesses. 
  6. Private Jet Fliers Enjoy Specialized Customs Screenings. While passports are still checked for everyone flying internationally, private jet fliers have their documents checked at a separate Customs facility (or occasionally may have their documents verified on-board the aircraft, depending on the facilities and time constraints facing Customs officials at any given airport).
  7. Fewer Passengers Make Private Jets Easier to Clean and Disinfect. While the National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization provide guidance on routine cleaning schedules for all types of aircraft, private jets are generally in the air less often and transporting fewer passengers than most commercial aircraft. These variables make the logistics of cleaning the aircraft easier to manage, with fewer possibilities for cross-contamination.

In general, the growing footprint of the coronavirus shows that the systems that drive the convenience and exclusivity of business aviation are all well suited to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases. However, all passengers can further increase their chances of preventing illness by embracing additional in-flight hygiene precautions.

Best Practices to Prevent Coronavirus and Stay Healthy while Flying Private

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently “exploring ways to treat and prevent COVID-19 and MERS infections by working to develop new antibodies, drugs, and vaccines.” While scientists explore potential treatments, the World Health Organization (WHO) is also issuing recommendations for the repatriation and quarantine of travelers, along with general travel advice. While this important work seeks to mitigate the impact of the illness, in the meantime the World Health Organization is encouraging the public to follow six steps to protect against the coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

We summarize the most meaningful recommendations in the context of private jet travel below:

  1. Wash Your Hands Frequently in Mid-Size and Heavy Jets with Lavatories. Washing your hands with soap and water (or using an alcohol-based hand rub in a pinch) is an easy, common-sense way to kill germs and prevent the spread of viruses. Mid-sized and heavy jet come equipped with lavatories for use in-flight, and some light jets such as the Hondajet have also prioritized lavatory space in their designs.
  2. Maintain Social Distancing By Avoiding Public Terminals and Security Screenings. Social distancing may be the single most significant benefit of private air charters in the fight against the coronavirus and other contagious diseases. The WHO recommends maintaining a distance of “at least 3 feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.” This distance is next to impossible to maintain in a TSA screening line or a crowded airport terminal. However, by driving to an exclusive FBO or securing ramp access to drive directly to your aircraft, you can completely avoid interactions with global travelers who may be infected.
  3. Avoid Touching Eyes, Nose and Mouth in Comfortable Climate Controlled Zones. The WHO says that hands can easily transfer viruses to your eyes, nose or mouth, where they can “enter your body and can make you sick.” In an on-board environment, it can be easier to avoid touching your face if you are a in comfortable space without air nozzles drying out your eyes and skin. In heavy jets such as the Gulfstream G550, there are multiple living spaces that can maintain individual climate settings to maximize comfort and encourage hygiene.
  4. Practice Good Respiratory Hygiene with Ample Space. The WHO says good respiratory hygiene “means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue with you cough or sneeze.” Maneuvering to cover your mouth or find a tissue can be difficult in a cramped coach environment, but it’s easy with the well-spaced club chairs and divans of nearly any private jet.
  5. Seek Medical Care Early (and Avoid Those Who Don’t). The WHO reiterates the basic common sense advice of staying home if feel unwell, adding that you should seek medical attention if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that symptoms may not appear for as long as 14 days after exposure, meaning that some infected travelers may not show any symptoms. This is another reason why it may make sense to avoid unnecessary contact with extended groups of global travelers.
  6. Stay informed.As scientists race to better understand COVID-19 and the category of coronaviruses in general, it makes sense to stay up to date with global health resources, such as the World Health Organization, as well as the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and more. In the aviation community, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued several coronavirus updates, while the US State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program shares general travel alerts and updates regarding specific destinations.

The WHO also has several YouTube videos with more in-depth information about coronavirus hygiene. These best practices can help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses while traveling, while the amenities and space afforded by most private jets make them a little easier to implement.

Conclusion: Private Air Charters and Good Hygiene Can Help Mitigate the Spread of Coronavirus and Other Communicable Diseases

Given the highly contagious, communicable nature of the coronavirus, there is a good argument to be made that flying by private jet, along with good hygiene practices, can minimize the spread of the disease. Elements of private jet travel that have been designed for convenience also enable fliers to avoid to sick travelers by accessing less congested airports, avoiding the close quarters of TSA screenings and passport lines, avoiding busy terminals, and choosing exactly who to travel with on aircraft that are logistically easier to disinfect.

These social distancing techniques, combined with healthy hygiene practices that are easier to implement with the space and facilities available on privates, make flying private an appealing alternative for those who need to continue working and traveling during a global health scare.