A cabin interior by Winch Design - Winch Media
A cabin interior by Winch Design – Winch Media

A year into the pandemic, many uncertainties remain but what seems clear is that the ultra-rich are still investing in private jets and superyachts with pre-Covid vim.

While some corporate buyers are scaling back aircraft use, younger, ultra-high-net-worth individuals are increasingly splashing out on larger, long-range aircraft capable of transcontinental travel without the need for fuel stops, according to Jetcraft, an international leader in private jet sales.

“If you are a tech entrepreneur or CEO who has been successful at a young age, you’re more likely to buy a large jet because it fits with your lifestyle and the global nature of your business,” says Jetcraft Owner Jahid Fazal-Karim. “You may have a home in Italy and an office in California so need a long-range aircraft to make the non-stop journey between the two.”

A private jet available through PrivateFly
A private jet available through PrivateFly

Luxury and private jet charter service Luxaviation has also seen bookings of bigger jets capable of taking ten or more passengers in the UK double – from 30% last winter to 60% so far this winter. This increase also reflects the fact that so many short haul destinations have been off-limits, especially the traditional ski spots, whereas you could, until our latest lockdown, still head to Dubai, the Maldives and the Caribbean for some winter sun.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” says Luxaviation CEO George Galanopoulos. “But I do expect once the UK and Europe’s lockdowns ease, clients will go further afield, leading to an increase in use of large-cabin aircrafts, which will allow greater movement in the cabin for families, while getting them to where they want to go as quickly and safely as possible.”

Interestingly, Luxaviation also noticed a significant number of clients did not return from their Christmas breaks, instead choosing to remain in the Maldives, Seychelles and Bermuda, working remotely and homeschooling their kids.

A cabin interior by Winch Design  - Winch Media
A cabin interior by Winch Design – Winch Media

UK-based private charter service PrivateFly have also observed that people have been spending much longer in more traditional summer holiday destinations.

“While people are likely to travel less than before, they will seek to make their trips count more,” says PrivateFly CEO, Adam Twidell. “So they’re taking longer, once-in-a-lifetime trips.”

All the charter companies I have spoken to have also seen an increase in the use of smaller, entry-level aircrafts, reflecting the number of customers dipping their toe into jet chartering for the first time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the superyacht market seems to be enjoying a similar buoyancy. There were 647 sold in 2020, which, while down 99 from the previous year, is still a considerable number for a year consumed by a global pandemic. That number includes a surge in sales in December. Of the year’s total, 64 were expedition yachts, up from 58 the previous year, the most ever recorded in a given year.

Cloudbreak, available for charter through SuperYachtsMonaco
Cloudbreak, available for charter through SuperYachtsMonaco

“Normally we sell about four boats a year on average,” says Mark Cavendish, CCO of renowned Dutch superyacht builder Heesen.

“In 2020, absolutely nothing happened for months and then suddenly we sold five boats in the last quarter. I think what happened was the world got fed up with being locked down and told they couldn’t go anywhere. So I suppose people who’ve got the money thought ‘now is as good a time as any to buy a boat because it’s my own controlled safe environment’. You go from your house to your private jet to your boat – the perfect Covid arrangement.”

There has been a notable increase in so-called long-legged cruising. A thirst for adventure is also leading to a rise in explorer superyachts. Together, these two trends have triggered an increase in demand for highly customised vessels that provide real homes-from-home, so their owners can potentially spend much longer on them.

London-based Winch Design specialises in creating the most extraordinary yacht and jet interiors for some of the world’s richest people, so has a valuable insight into both markets.

“There has definitely been a growing trend for staying longer on board yachts, especially now with the uncertainty of future lockdowns. As a result, clients want the privacy and safety of life on board with everything you’d need for longer stays, from teaching facilities, wellness areas and beauty salons to ‘working from home’ office spaces,” says Jim Dixon, Winch Design’s Director of Yachts and Aviation.

A superyacht interior by Winch Design - Winch Media
A superyacht interior by Winch Design – Winch Media

“We are continuing to notice clients with young families living comfortably on board for long stretches of time as well as a surge in interest for explorer yachts as people look to escape the norm in search of an ‘off grid’ adventure,” he continues. “This same focus on lifestyle applies to our private aircrafts, with bedrooms, dining and entertaining areas all common features, resulting in residential-style ‘homes in the sky’, for both business travellers and families.”

One positive impact of the pandemic on the superyachts themselves is that for once, their owners and captains had time to maintain and even upgrade them.

“In the same way that people found they did overdue jobs in their homes during lockdown, it’s been the same with yachts,” explains Julia Simpson of yacht charter and sales company SuperYachtsMonaco, whose 75-metre expedition yacht Cloudbreak is available for charter this summer from €750,000 per week and which is currently advertising the sale of I NOVA, a new luxury expedition yacht, for €19,900,000 excluding VAT.

“They managed to do lots of general upgrading they’d been putting off. So there’s now a whole lot of yachts out there in beautiful condition.”

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Originally published