Charter companies are flocking to some business hubs

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Charter companies are flocking to some business hubs

- Commercial aviation companies are making a beeline for executives wary of flying direct to business meetings due to a limited offer of private flights, as commercial travel eases back this fall after a pandemic-induced slump.

Private air traffic has rebounded above 2019 levels, helped by wealthy leisure travelers avoiding direct flights in the pandemic to avoid contracting the virus or earlier due to commercial flights.

Now, some charter companies are trying to extend that advantage to commercial travel with scheduled flights to some business hubs still below 2019 levels despite a broader leisure-driven rebound in corporate traffic.

As demand grows, corporative airlinemakers like General Dynamics Corp's Gulfstream Aerospace and Textron Inc should boost production to meet the demand. Rival Bombardier reports earnings on Thursday.

Corporation travel, expected to revive this fall, is crucial for aviation because of demand from frequent flyers and airlines' appetite for higher-margin premium fares.

But a full recovery could take years due to rising U.S. COVID - 19 cases driven by the more aggressive Delta variant.

Major carriers have rerouted routes as restrictions ease. Delta Air Lines will more than double the number of daily flights between the U.S. and Canada beginning September 1, when fully-vaccinated Americans can fly to the country.

But most domestic flights dipped 15.3% in July 2021 compared with 2019, with flights to and from certain hubs generally down half, according to Cirium.

That creates an opening for companies like Airshare, which will have three new Bombardier Challenger jets this year. Its business traffic has returned to 90% of 2019 levels.

To be able to get into a destination for a meeting on the same day is very difficult, said Andy Tretiak, chief marketing officer of Airshare, which offers charter flights among other services.

They have to cater their schedule around the airlines, Tretiak said in July about his customers that also fly commercial.

But they would rather do opposite.

Although above 2020 levels, U.S. commercial airline flights were still down 20% compared with 2019, according to the weekly average from July 21 - 28 from FlightAware. For the week compared to 2019, Business aviation aircraft flights were up 23% compared with 2019.

David McCown, president of the Americas for Air Partner PLC, which provides aircraft charters among other services, expects to get some new corporate shuttle contracts online by Q 3, certainly by Q 4.

He said UK-based Air Partner brokered a new shuttle contract in 2020 from an energy company that couldn't find a direct plane flight to Latin America due to cutbacks.

An affordable private jet that operates in the skies of the Pacific is a niche business, however. Business Aviation flights account for just 4 percent of the traffic at commercial airports used by business airlines, according to National Business Aviation Association.

Air Partner's advertised U.S. hourly rate for a midsize cabin is $7,300.

Tretiak recognized private aviation can't beat airlines on price, but can attract travelers through faster service at smaller airports.

In June, FlightAware said 9,399 flights were canceled in the United States due to labor shortages, among other reasons.

What we're competing with is the value of your time, said Tretiak.