by Brendan M. Lynch | November 01, 2006

Chartered aircraft

Another choice gaining popularity is use of chartered aircraft. For example, New York City-based Imperial Jets in September reported a 107 percent increase in weekly inquiries following the reports of the U.K.-based bomb plot. Other charter aircraft companies report a similar rise in business since August.

“Business has picked up quite a bit,” says Greg Goodwin, vice president of marketing with Hingham, Mass.-based Private Business Jets. “Any time commercial airline travel becomes less convenient, people turn to us.”

While charter flights can cost considerably more than flying commercial
aircraft, the convenience level also is
high. Goodwin says his company’s services are often used for incentive programs and to transport VIPs to meetings and events.

“It’s just as safe and secure in that every name of every person is checked though Homeland Security, and they’re required to show ID before boarding,” Goodwin notes. “But as far as bringing bottled water or nail clippers goes,
that’s OK.”

Another option for planners might be to use a private jet company on a standby basis. For example, Hampton, N.H.-based Private Jet Services Group offers an “airlift contingency program” to meeting and incentive planners whereby the company will fly out attendees on short notice in the event of “natural disasters, political unrest, strikes or commercial airline interruptions.” Costs apply only when the airlift service actually is used.

Future shock?

While the partial loosening of restrictions on gels and liquids in carry-on luggage should ease the burden on some business travelers, it also might sow confusion and add to wait times. After all, restrictions have changed at least three times from Aug. 10 through press time.

More importantly, “The impact on travel to conventions will be worse than after 9/11 if we have another attack,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Radnor, Pa.-based Business Travel Coalition. “If it happens again after five years and billions of dollars, there’s not going to be any convincing [people] that travel is safe. If it were just one plane, it would be really, really bad. But if it’s two or three like the U.K. bomb plot, then it is the end of the airline industry as we know it.”

Hopefully, as a result of efforts being made and debated now, that scenario will never come to pass.