We’ve all seen the news; photos of flooded streets, crowded airports, hanging cranes, and utter chaos across the east coast. Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm to hit the northeast in a lifetime.
As a result of Sandy, the power in many suburbs of New York still remains out over one week after Sandy’s decapitation. More relevant to our business, over 18,000 commercial flights were cancelled because of Sandy. All of the New York area airports were shut down. Furthermore, Teterboro, the main private jet airport for New York City, as well as LaGuardia, were both flooded, trapping aircraft on tarmacs and in hangars for days.
Whenever there is a nor’easter, hurricane, volcanic eruption, or nearly any type of natural disaster or severe weather system within or near North America, flights get cancelled. When flights get cancelled, our phones beginning ringing off the hook almost immediately. About 90% of the calls we receive during these times are from displaced airline passengers who don’t proceed with our services once they realize the difference in the cost of flying private vs. flying commercial. The remaining 10% however are legitimate users of business jets, whether for all of their flights or only some of their flights.
When we get a call from a legitimate business jet user during one of these splurges, the question arises… “Are business jets a secret weapon against inclement weather and airport conditions?” The answer to this is that “it depends.”
In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, New York was imperiled by wind gusts in excess of 70 mph. In a situation like that, no plane will fly in the area. ALL flights will be cancelled, whether they are private or commercial, as was the case with Sandy. Some private jet passengers will be upset by this fact given how much they’re paying, but the fact of that matter is that aircraft can only operate safely under more favorable meteorological conditions.
When airports begin to open however, private jet passengers will be the first to get in and out. While JFK and LaGuardia were still closed in New York after Sandy passed, the White Plains airport opened up. Private jet providers were able to route nearly all NYC traffic through White Plains while nearly all commercial passengers were still grounded. Likewise, when one part of the country is hit by a large storm, an airline’s flights will be delayed all over the country as a result of the chain system that makes up an airline’s route network. For private jet flights however, whose schedules are not defined by a pre-determined and inflexible schedule, that is just not the case.
As you can see, when it isn’t safe to fly, private jets will not get you there. When conditions get marginally better however, a private jet can get you in/out of the storm zone days after a commercial carrier’s service resumes. The general aviation industry has been an invaluable tool for businesses, individuals, and even rescue operations over the years in offering service to/from storm and disaster zones days before commercial carriers could do so.