Getting travellers home during Covid-19: AirGO's experience.

COVID-19 Support

Getting travellers home in times of COVID-19: AirGO’s experience

During the pandemic, a lot of business aviation companies have been actively repatriating people so they quarantine in the safety of their own homes. AirGO is no exception. Daniela Flierl, Managing Director of AirGO, elaborates on the experience, the crisis, and the value of business aviation in times of challenge.

“Before the lockdown was established, it was business as usual, with multiple flights a day,” Daniela recalls. “But once lockdown started, it was especially difficult for our pilots to travel abroad. Multiple countries and cities had shut down. They experienced police escorts from the airport to their hotel, seeing no one and going nowhere. Food was delivered at their door – they couldn’t go out to buy anything because all the shops and restaurants were closed. But they continued to do their jobs and bring our clients home, even through these extreme circumstances.”

[Our crews] continued to do their jobs and bring our clients home, even through extreme circumstances.

Despite this, Daniela says they remained positive throughout the experience, sharing photos and anecdotes with their colleagues. It was especially difficult since the biggest amount of flights were bringing people back from Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe. Before the pilots took flight, Daniela made sure they were comfortable doing so: “I talked to every pilot and got to know their personal situation, their level of comfort performing the flights, and talked them through the hygiene measures. For now, everything has gone well.”

I talked to every pilot and got to know their level of comfort performing the flights.

“Our passengers and pilots flew with masks, and arrived in very quiet airports. Hand sanitizers and disinfectants were available at all times. We followed the strictest hygiene measures for our aircraft,” she explains. “Our crew saw it as an adventure – we all hope this will stay a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“However, the whole point of business aviation is minimising contact,” Daniela clarifies. “Business aviation has always been faster and more comfortable than commercial airlines. But in these circumstances, it’s also safer to fly with business aircraft. It wasn’t a challenge to apply the measures put in place by the government. We are naturally physically distancing.”

Gearing up for the repercussions

Daniela also shares some of the challenges that the crisis has brought to light. Although they still receive frequent requests, the company has to monitor whether these are deemed essential travel or not.

“The sales and operations team have their work cut out, determining whether these are repatriation flights or not. On top of that, we have to research whether it’s even possible to even fly to that country, with the current restrictions in place,” Daniela mentions.

Operators have to work together.

She also shares concerns about the economic consequences this health crisis will bring along with it: “Operators have to work together, and not go under the market value. It will damage not only their business, but those of others as well. We saw it happen in 2008. Instead of decreasing demand, we have to increase flight possibilities.”

Yet Daniela remains optimistic about the situation. A lot of people who flew during this period were first-time business aviation users who’ve now realised just how efficient and safe private travel can be.

“We received feedback from our pilots that a number of passengers said they would look into flying business aviation more frequently after the lockdown. It’s safer, with fewer touchpoints,” she says. “As for our regular clients, they are used to the service, and will continue to make use of it.”

Business aviation: an important part of the economy

Daniela takes a broader look at business aviation and how it fits into this crisis.

“Business aviation gives entrepreneurs the possibility to work more efficiently, and keep their companies successful. Successful companies create jobs,” she states. “This is an important part of the economy. We do more than ambulance and cargo flights. We bring people to work, and right now, we need to work.”

Business aviation gives entrepreneurs the possibility to work more efficiently, and keep their companies successful.

“This is not a tool for spoiled people,” Daniela emphasizes. “It’s a real business tool, with normal people working in the business, assisting those helping the economy. It’s a part of our society.”

Daniela concludes by expressing her concern about the health crisis in general: “I’ve spoken to medical professionals, and they have emphasised that a failing economy is the worst thing that could happen for the healthcare system. It’s time to restart our businesses, but in a safe and structured way.”