Clive Chalmers, VP Charter, explains how our Group Charter team have been supporting clients through Covid-19.
The last few months have been an unprecedented time in aviation. In the last 20 years, Air Partner has been through global events such as SARS, 9/11, volcanic ash clouds, wars and recessions, all affecting the aviation industry – but nothing on the scale that we are seeing with COVID-19. It is well publicised the challenges that airlines are facing and it's fair to say that this will no doubt change the face of aviation as we once knew it. The Air Partner team will be there to guide our customers through the challenges we face, and support our airline partners who are so important to the work that we do.
Our Group Charter team have been extremely busy over the last couple of months handling a spike in demand for our group flights. We started off by operating the first charter to evacuate British nationals from Wuhan at the end of January on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a challenging project to complete given the restrictions and protocols that had to be put into place for the operation. Thanks to our skilled team of experts, the first flight operated successfully which then led to further repatriation flights for the UK Government from countries including Japan and Cuba. Dealing with complex, time sensitive requests are all in a day's work for us. As a team, it has been very rewarding to watch the news channels capturing live pictures of flights landing in the UK which we have assisted with, knowing that we have been doing our bit to support the country through the crisis.
As the weeks progressed, we continued to operate evacuation flights for several different industries including one of the longest non-stop flights we have ever flown. Honolulu to Frankfurt: a flight time of just under 15 hours and a distance of over 12,000 km.
We also had an instance when a group of local government dignitaries were stranded abroad due to their scheduled flights being cancelled at the last minute. The request was received early in the morning and by the evening, the passengers were safely back in the UK. Cancellation of scheduled flights have continued to drive demand for charter. Essential workers in the international Energy sector for example, still need to rotate employees on projects and with the reduction in scheduled services across the globe, Group Charter has been an alternative solution to achieve this. This is a trend that is likely to continue at least in the short term.
The scheduled service network will take time to recover and to get back up and running again. There is inevitably going to be capacity restrictions as well which will lead to more shuttle requests for multi-national companies as executives look to get their operations back on track.
In the early days of the pandemic, we launched our Air Partner Protect product in response to demand from our customers for additional assurance against the effects of COVID-19. We have seen requests for additional aircraft deep cleaning prior to our customers' charter flights along with using our resources to guide our customers through the various restrictions that were starting to come into force for the countries that we are flying to and from. With social distancing here to stay, at least in the short to medium term, demand for this is likely to continue. One of the benefits of chartering your own aircraft is that you have the privacy of flying with your own closed group. Knowing who is on board the aircraft has always been a key advantage of Group Charter and with what we have seen over the last few months, this will become even more important.
As with many businesses globally, having to adapt to working through COVID-19 our Group Charter team have found new ways to service our customers over the last few months. Working from home when we are used to an open plan office environment has taken some time to get used to but thanks to our technology in place, we are able to have daily team meetings to support each other and ensure our customer service is seamless.
It has been devastating to see the impact this virus has had on individuals and families across the world and our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this. As the world resets, Air Partner will be there 24-7 to support in whatever way we can.