What’s Next for Luxury Travel
Jet Linx is proud to stand on the leading edge of travel’s return.
On December 14, 2020, Jet Linx President & CEO Jamie Walker presented at INSPIRE 2020 – a virtual event that featured more than 100 of the most influential and innovative leaders in luxury hospitality. The goal of this year’s event was to sustain and elevate the luxury travel and hospitality industry during a critical time.
In a panel discussion on what the future of luxury travel might look like, Walker spoke alongside five other well-known industry leaders; Mathew L. Evins, Chairman & Co-founder at Evins Communication; Joann Kurtz-Ahlers, Founder and President at Hidden Doorways Travel Collection; Ruthanne Terroro, Vice President & Editorial Director at Questex Travel Group; Albert M. Herrera, Senior Vice President of Global Product Partnerships at Virtuoso and David Israel, Senior Vice President at hotelAVE.
Evins led the panel discussion, posing questions to all five panelists about how their organizations initially responded. to the pandemic, how it shifted their attitudes and priorities, how consumer behavior changed, and how the disruption in the industry will impact business in the long term and short term. The overwhelming sentiment brought forth in discussion was that while the pandemic posed a monumental threat, it sparked creativity that will carry the industry into the future.
Creativity & Flexibility to Define the Future of Private Aviation and Luxury Hospitality
The panel began by discussing timelines for when the luxury travel industry would recover or resemble itself before the outbreak of the pandemic. Citing a major downturn in March and April of 2020 (with activity down by 85%), Walker went on to explain that Jet Linx had since rebounded nicely, with flight activity as of the end of 2020 down only 10% from the prior year. Still, Walker explained that the industry remains vastly different in several key aspects.
“Jet Linx and other private operators made a nice rebound partly because safety and security were already built into our model,” Walker explained. “However, as well-prepared as we were to make changes to handle the pandemic, there’s much that has changed and will likely not return to the way things were before. We’ve learned to embrace the change and accept the challenges that come along with operating in an already rapidly-changing industry.”
From enhanced cleaning and sanitization in partnership with BIOPROTECTUs™, to the practice of social distancing and masking at all private terminals, the Jet Linx experience has changed since the beginning of 2020. Walker explained that the shift to becoming touchless/contactless has been smooth while still retaining the characteristic intimate feel of a Jet Linx journey.
“The other week we hosted a partner from New York City at our National Operations Center in Omaha, and I think the only handle he touched was his own door in New York,” he stated. “At our private terminal at Teterboro Airport, the back and front door were already open, and he was led into a cleaned and disinfected jet by a masked, distanced Flight Concierge. Arriving in Omaha, he stepped off the jet and a vehicle waiting for him with the doors open. With automatic doors and some extra preparation, this partner never touched a single surface outside of his own door handle. While we can no longer shake hands or come too close, we can still provide a thoughtful, personalized experience to our clients. Every step of the journey is planned ahead of time to ensure absolute comfort,” Walker added.
NEW CLIENTELE GRAVITATE TO CONVENIENCE AND SAFETY
Walker also mentioned the creation of the Jet Linx Affiliate Jet Card – a product aimed directly at consumers that could afford private aviation, but hadn’t previously invested in the safety and security of private jet solutions. The desire to serve those in need of safe travel options during the pandemic spurred this limited-time offering, while also opening up a new customer base.
“An interesting thing we saw was a rise in new clientele that had been on our radar, but were helped along to use us by the added safety and security we offer. Our 90-day Affiliate Jet Card allowed this new segment of customers to experience our services and decide whether they were interested in a long-term agreement,” Walker stated. “It also allowed us to earn their trust and we’ve started seeing people convert those short-term agreements into the long-term agreements now that they’re fully appreciating the convenience and safety we provide.”
Another side effect of the pandemic was that the window for booking flights shortened in 2020.
In previous years the average window teetered around two weeks before departure, but the uncertainty of the pandemic cut that time down to three to five days ahead of a flight.
“We’ve certainly seen apprehension to commit to long-term travel,” Walker added, “and as a result we have seen the booking window shrink. Flexibility remains an important service component of our program and we’re pleased to offer clients the ability to control their own schedule in more uncertain times,” Walker offered.
BEHAVIOR SHIFTS, BUT NOT THE DESIRE TO TRAVEL
To help clients combat the additional complications the pandemic has placed on travel, Jet Linx has gotten creative when it comes to offering safe and appealing adventures to clients. The Elevated Lifestyle Preferred Hotel Program, a first of its kind in the industry, allows a completely secure plane-to-pillow experience. The Hotel Program allows Jet Linx clients access to more than 70 of the world’s finest, star-rated hotels in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, France, Morocco and more. The program also affords Jet Linx Jet Card members and aircraft owners special accommodations and complimentary booking assistance.
“The Preferred Hotel Program highlights our ability to offer safe, curated experiences for our clients while safeguarding their health and wellness,” Walker said. “We’ve worked hard to earn the trust of our clients when it comes to flight safety, so this program pairs perfectly around promises we have been consistent in delivering.”
While the logistics of travel have changed, the desire to travel has not. Knowing this, Jet Linx introduced the Travel Wisely program, offering innovative and flexible ways to leverage Jet Linx private aviation services with safe, remote, and distanced destinations.
“When clients are given the capability to control their schedule, we see more confidence from them. By planning ahead, a lot of the traditional unknowns are eliminated and that lends itself to an even more refined and curated experience,” Walker added. “We’re making recommendations to our clients and encouraging them to stay safe at home, but that now is also a great time to begin planning for future journeys.”
With Elevated Lifestyle partners such as Epic Private Journeys, Jet Linx clients have the opportunity to create custom adventures with seasoned guides in sensational destinations. Discerning travelers can pick from independent, guided and group journeys in places like the Galápagos Islands, the Amazon and Africa. These efforts can take months or more to plan perfectly, and time spent at home in light of the pandemic means plenty of time to craft an amazing future trip.
Immense challenges and disruption defined 2020, but when asked, Walker urged panelists to focus on the response of their organizations and the courage of team members to continue working in the face of uncertainty.
“Of course, we’d like to forget about what happened in 2020, but it’s worth acknowledging the fortitude and dedication displayed by our team members. We felt the hardships that everyone else did – furloughing and eliminating positions was a decision that myself and my executives will never want to revisit – but there were so many takeaways,” Walker admitted. “The most important lesson we learned is that we can develop the best programs in the world, best pricing in the world, but if you don’t have the best people in the world, the rest doesn’t work.”
At the closing of the panel, Walker offered final takeaways after a year full of challenges and obstacles, saying, “Anything that we can all do to be creative, to make travel happen again, I think it’s going to get us out of this much quicker than waiting for travel to return to pre-pandemic levels. It’s a new world and we have to embrace it and create demand again.”