Zac George is the director and founder of JETPAX, a Brisbane based private aviation brokerage. While JETPAX currently specialise in private jet charter, they are moving into the management and acquisitions of aircraft to provide a streamlined turnkey solution for clients.
Speaking to Zac, we discussed why people would consider chartering private jets rather than commercial planes, what the future in aviation looks like given the environmental issues, and the differing applications of private charters.
Private jets are often thought of as a rich man’s toy, but there’s more to it than just having money.
Zac: A lot of our charter clients choose us because they know what they’re getting every time. They know the aircraft, they know the crew, so there’s a greater human element and it helps not feel so transactional. They really love that aspect, it’s a lot friendlier, a lot more caring.
There’s also a lot of opportunity for customisation and tailoring for flights. If clients want to have specific transfers, beverages, or food, we’re able to cater for that.
This doesn’t happen often but sometimes we’ll get clients who want specifics on their plane, like a dark leather interior or wood panelling. Certain car groups have requested the interior to match the colouring of their branding. Some clients will want cabin space with a divan at the back, some want a front galley if they have food they want to store.
If the client is in the medical industry, they’ll need a medically equipped aircraft, we can provide that. We can move a seat out, put a bed in, or failing that, we have an air ambulance equipped aircraft. Organ transports are actually one of the biggest uses for charter aircraft. I’ve flown on two flights now with a pair of lungs and a pair of kidneys (chuckles)!
It isn’t so much that private jet clients are trying to save money or even to show off their wealth, but to save on one of our most precious resources.
Zac: We’re giving clients an asset they can’t purchase – time. That’s the big reason they choose JETPAX. They’re saving hours upon hours of time by flying corporate which is something our clients highly value.
The kind of people chartering private jets are often businesspeople, but it isn’t just them. “New money” loves private jets, people who’ve made a lot of money from cryptocurrency investments or successful e-commerce businesses.
Zac: The thing that we’ve noticed in the last couple of years is that there is a lot of “new money” coming into corporate aviation. You might have seen a lot of people making money via cryptocurrency recently as well as e-commerce brands that have taken off in the last few years. So we’re seeing a lot of interest from young entrepreneurs and the like.
On the complete other end of spectrum, we have a lot of retiree clients. These clients are more focused on leisure rather than business. Things like golf trips, attending a Formula 1 Grand Prix, those kinds of things. Even attending opera events has been a popular choice.
The reason they are choosing corporate aviation though is also due to commercial aviation headaches in the post-covid era.
Zac: Businesses are gravitating a lot more to corporate aviation because commercial aviation has become unsustainable in the long-term for them. We’ve got clients that are missing 8-12 hours a week purely due to airline delays. That’s what they mean by unsustainable. They can’t run their businesses effectively, especially those working at publicly listed companies with board meetings on a regular basis, they can’t be missing those.
Zac, however, also wants to make it clear that those who have bought private jets haven’t done as a status symbol, but rather a convenience.
Zac: People who have bought aircraft, 99% of them haven’t done so to make money. They buy them as tools, and often offset the costs by chartering their aircraft to brokerages like JETPAX.
Essentially, a private jet has become the epitome of the phrase, “time is money.” That idea has made private jet chartering a booming business with vendors like NetJets struggling to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, Australian corporate aviation, while enjoying a boom itself, cannot come close to the demand in the U.S.
Zac: The only downside in Australia is that we don’t have the fleet capability that the U.S. companies do. A lot of them can access 700-800 jets, whereas we only have access to 4-5 at one time. We then have to make sure that the operators don’t have any flights booked, and that the owner doesn’t have any flights booked. We’ve got a few hoops to jump through just to verify that an aircraft is available because we don’t actually own aircraft under JETPAX, but we work with both the operating companies and private owners of the aircraft.
Environmental groups have argued that the use of private jets not only pollute the environment but are also unnecessary in most cases. This sentiment has given rise to government responses like France’s short haul domestic flight ban to destinations where a train is available. Zac doesn’t believe something like this will happen in Australia due to the size of Australia and the prevalence of remote areas, something Europe has few of. However, he does acknowledge the environmental impact of private aviation, though stresses that the industry is responding as quick as it can to reduce this impact.
Zac: In terms of environmental impact, yes, private jets are polluting. However, the industry is working as fast they can to create biofuels and reduce our overall impact on the environment. I know that biofuel is reaching the stages now where it’s quite effective, but in saying that, everything has a downside as unfortunately it’s a lot more expensive than traditional fuels. A lot of companies will feel the effect of that moving forward.
There are things the industry is doing to help the environment, but in the short-term there isn’t anything we can do to prevent damaging it entirely.
Electrical aviation has some promise. However, we still have to see what implementation will look like for long-haul aircraft, or aircraft over water, bad weather etc. There’s a lot of variables that have to be taken into account and we won’t see any major changes any time soon, but it’s definitely moving along.
2030 would be a good estimate to see significant changes. Quite a few big companies have committed to being 100% renewable by 2030 and beyond. If they’re able to commit to that, there are big things to come and with it a greater reduction in emissions overall in the industry.
Will this mean that we may see the Tesla of sky by 20230? Perhaps a self-driving jet? Unlikely, but there certainly are exciting things to come in the world of aviation, things that could have larger effects on the world-at-large. Regardless of what happens, JETPAX will be there to see to all your charter needs.