You can learn about trends by spending time at smaller local and regional airports like the Easton Airport. While they lack, or are spared from, the arrivals and departures of commercial airlines, air traffic at some of these airports seems to be increasing. Recently a passenger who is also a longtime pilot explained one of the reasons and possibly a new equation about air travel.
At the outset, he suggested what most know, flying in private aircraft today is not inexpensive. However, by observing who is flying it is clear that men and women of all ages and various income groups are piloting private planes and flying in private aircraft.
The advantages are pretty clear and our source suggested that those who fly aircraft have always enjoyed freedom and flexibility when traveling around the country. While the travel time in the air might be longer than a commercial airline option, the flying is often fun and the total time “door to door” can be about the same or even shorter for pilots and passengers than the scheduled airline alternatives.
Reports indicate that the general aviation and business aviation communities have done much to improve the safety record of flying. The technology companies supporting the aviation community produce extraordinary technology now found in the most basic aircraft. Indeed, today’s pilots suggest the array of avionics in private aircraft often exceeds what is in the commercial airliner.
Add to this, there are over 5,000 public use airports in the United States today and the airlines serve fewer than 500 (a number that’s declining).
Some may remember that about a dozen years ago, there were projections that we might suddenly see more air travel utilizing on demand aircraft, so called air taxis. What did occur was number of aircraft used for charter flights and corporate travel grew utilizing the network of small and regional airports across the country as well as the large metropolitan airfields.
However, the most interesting point made was that like so much around us today, COVID-19 may, when it comes to air travel, present a new equation when considering flying in something other than a scheduled commercial airliner.
It was pointed out that no longer is the cost of flying represented just by the ticket price. Today, it must include new risks and not the kind where metal objects are colliding.
All of us know that doing anything in close proximity to others gives thoughtful people pause with the ongoing COVID-19 battle. Surveys suggest people are wary of returning to commercial aircraft. And, if that is not enough, some airlines have publicly announced that they will be filling all the seats again – an announcement that might please some shareholders, but is hardly welcomed by their passengers.
A recent Business Insider magazine headline appeared after an airline announcement: “American Airlines will start selling middle seats again as airlines bet that customers won’t care about social distancing in flight.” To be fair, this announcement and article appeared last month.
However, the threat from hotspots has become a growing concern. Remember when things seemed out of control in Wuhan, China and countries started banning flights from China into their international airports? Well, consider these two facts:
Today, in the middle of July, the following was reported in the Washington Post:
“…Miami was declared the latest ‘epicenter of the epidemic,’ and a senior medical official compared it to Wuhan at the height of China’s struggles with the virus.
American Airlines lists 7 direct flights a day into our region from Miami and another 137 options to take flights with various connections to get into the area…all in one day.
The point raised was that we are now operating in ways thought to present high risks just a few months ago. Thus, in a very real sense, the “cost” of commercial air travel must take into consideration the personal risk associated with moving through more crowded terminals to an aircraft that may well be full.
So, suggested this one non-airline flying passenger, it only makes sense to look at alternatives to the airlines for at least for the next few months and leave the flying to two people sitting just ahead of you in a non-airline aircraft.
All of this prompted a bit of research.
There are numerous travel options today that provide people with safe, comfortable professionally flown aircraft that will actually meet you near where you live….Easton, for example.
A company called Linear Air offers a range of options from single engine piston aircraft to light jets. Another company, Wheels Up, offers a fleet of beautiful and comfortable King Air aircraft flying with multi engine turboprop efficiency as well as a wide range of small and large jets. And, if you want, you can share the cabin with just a few other people going between the same airports.
These and a multitude of other organizations provide space for several people and even pets, not to mention all sizes of bags. And, no one needs to go through busy terminals. The two-person crew take great care to ensure the aircraft are clean and sanitized between flights.
It’s clear that one key to the success of private flying is a strong local airport and we are fortunate to have one of the best run airports in the nation here in Easton. They are fully capable of sharing options for air travel. Take a look at their website for more information.
So, when people feel the need to fly for a family outing, a working meeting best done in person or need to transport members of a family or a group of colleagues, consider an approach that reduces a risk that just could present the greatest cost of all.
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.