Celebrities and other high-profile private jet owners aren’t posting For Sale signs on their private jets – yet. However, as college student and private jet tracker Jack Sweeney continues to feed the media with Twitter postings detailing the private jet flights of the rich and famous, including their carbon emissions, several executives say that could change. They also say it’s time for celebrities to put up or shut up about flying privately.
Vincent Kavanagh, Executive Vice President of Frisco, Texas-based Four Corners Aviation, which buys jets from owners and then allows them to fly in that aircraft with their same crew under a services agreement it markets as the Freedom Program, says there has been an uptick in inquiries since media coverage of flights by Jenner, Swift, Drake, and others started taking off several weeks ago.
He says there are currently “a number of high-profile celebrities, media and sports, that this type of discussion is currently live.”
A prime beneficiary of any trend away from full ownership is likely to be fractional ownership providers.
Fractional ownership allows for buying shares in a specific private jet type, but then having access to an entire fleet of private jets with as little as four to six hours’ notice, giving utility similar to owning your own aircraft.
Since the type of data collected by trackers like Sweeney can’t tell who is in the aircraft, there is no way say which owners are flying where.
A spokesperson for Flexjet, a major player in the fractional ownership segment, says, “While we have not specifically seen high-profile individuals sell their aircraft and move to fractional to get off the radar, historically, high-net-worth individuals have selected fractional jet ownership for the privacy it offers as well as the smart deployment of their assets.”
Private aviation officials believe Sweeney’s tweets, which have included live data about where jets were headed, increase safety risks for both the jet owners and staff at private airports.
NetJets, the largest operator of fractionally owned private jets, and VistaJet, which offers non-ownership options targeting UHNW customers, declined to comment.
However, in addition to keeping customers off the radar, like many sellers of shared jets, jet cards and memberships, each have programs so members can offset emissions.
Last year NetJets also invested in WasteFuel, which is transforming landfill waste into Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF. It can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%. Flexjet parent Direction Aviation launched 4Air, which helps private aviation companies and jet owners offset emissions and identify where they can buy the low emissions jet fuel. VistaJet has pledged its operations will be carbon neutral by 2025.
Several executives criticized both the responses from Jenner, Drake and Swift and the media coverage.
One executive notes, “I didn’t see a single article where a reporter asked these celebrities if they offset emissions from their flights, or buy sustainable aviation fuel, and I didn’t see one single instance where the representatives of these celebrities offered to produce proof their clients are offsetting their flights or buying sustainable fuel. To me, the story was, ‘Are these folks taking advantage of the programs the industry offers to reduce and offset their emissions, and if not, why not?’”
Another executive believes the impact of the current media fury will depend on how long it lasts.
“This isn’t the first time (for shaming), and it won’t be the last time. What happens is it makes the type of owners who are targeted by trackers update their assessments. That ranges from publicity to security,” he says, adding, “In 99% of cases, airline schedules don’t fit the needs of these high-profile people, so all of the media coverage is moot. They will be flying privately whether you like it or not.”