By Clinton Moodley Jul 26, 2021
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More South Africans are hopping on private charters (or PJs as the cool kids like to call it) and are sparing no cost on state-of-the-art jets.
A-list South African celebrities like Somizi Mhlongo, Bonang Matheba, Black Coffee and Cassper Nyovest are avid PJ travellers. And South Africans with extra cash to spare can also indulge in this form of travel.
Besides the hefty price tag (a one-way trip starts from R20 000), hopping on your own private charter offers many perks, especially during the pandemic when people want to avoid commercial flights and large crowds.
The demand bodes well for South African private flight charter companies, which had seen a rise in private charter demand in recent months, especially among businesses, families and individuals.
Odette Bertasso, the ExecuJet charter manager for Africa, said that had been particularly true for the domestic market.
She said that among the factors for the rise in domestic charters were the country’s lockdown restrictions and overall uncertainty regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.
“On the other hand, international travellers are still sceptical to travel to South Africa, even privately, as the vaccine roll-out has been slow.
“This, together with the recent political and social unrest, does not instil confidence in the country,” she said.
Andre d’Hotman, the pilot and manager for the SA operations at MackAir at Lanseria International Airport, said private charters offered convenience.
“We have seen a rise in private charters since lockdown last year, especially for travellers who are unable to find scheduled flights or those nervous to travel on a commercial aircraft during the pandemic.
“It offers many conveniences for on-the-go travellers. It eliminates the airport process. You simply arrive, head to the aircraft, board and depart. There are lounges with wi-fi available for those who want to arrive early,” he said.
D’Hotman said the biggest drawcard was that travellers had the plane to themselves.
Popular domestic routes include flights between major cities, with Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban Kruger National Park and George.
How to book your own PJ
Companies differ when it comes to service, however, trips are tailored to meet the individual or group’s needs.
The type of aircraft will depend on the number of passengers, the route and the itinerary. Bertasso advised that domestic travellers need to alert companies a few hours in advance to mobilise crew and get the aircraft ready. For international flights, travellers need to provide at least 48 hours notice for the company to secure overflight and landing rights in the other country.
One of the biggest drawcards for private charters is safety due to the pandemic. Most travellers want to move around in a travel bubble to minimise their exposure to the virus.
ExecuJet, for example, offers a fully personalised experience, from specific catering requirements, bar items and even special requests for pets.
MackAir’s Citation M2 can carry up to six passengers, features a wireless cabin management system and LED lighting as well as reclining seats.
Rates for private charters vary according to the size of aircraft and distance. The size of the airport, catering, and overflight clearance for international flights also play a vital role in the cost of the flight.
“Pricing varies and depends on the aircraft type,“ Bertasso said.
“Entry-level aircraft like the Pilatus PC12 start around R20 000 per hour. As ExecuJet manages and operates aircraft on behalf of aircraft owners, the owner sets the base selling rate. Each aircraft has a daily demurrage, which is the minimum number of kilometres or hours that will be levied by the aircraft owner per day. These are some of the factors that impact the cost of chartering aircraft.”
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