After two years of Covid lockdowns in France, the private jet set is back.
They are filling luxury hotels in Paris where entry-level rooms at Palace Hotels start at over $1,000 per night and suites are often priced over $5,000. They are renting villas and yachts for hundreds of thousands of dollars along the Cote d’Azur, and mostly leaving behind millions of Euros as they shop, dine and play.
Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisors, reports France is among the top five destinations for Fall and Winter travel.
Many arrive by private jet. According to data from WingX and Eurocontrol, Paris Le Bourget and Nice ranked first and second as the busiest airports for private jets across Europe in July. Cannes Mandelieu Airport ranked 15th.
The gains come despite an expected loss of over $50 million that typically would have been spent by Russian tourists along the French Riviera.
At the same time, a French government official is telling national media the Macron government plans to lobby other EU members to implement undisclosed regulations and possible restrictions on private jet users.
French transport minister Clément Beaune told the Le Parisian newspaper, “I think we need to act and regulate private jet flights.”
While he added, “We are, of course, far from the pure and simple ban advocated…by the boss of the Greens Julien Bayou,” Beaune said he will propose actions during an upcoming meeting of EU Transport Ministers.
A government spokesperson told Reuters, “One can understand that French people who cut their energy consumption can be hurt when some of his fellow citizens use a private jet to hop around from place to place even though in most cases private jets are used for business.”
According to the Financial Times, French transport minister Clément Beaune seems to be specifically focused on discretionary travel. “While there might be urgent business trips, private jet flights could not be taken ‘just for the comfort of individuals’ given the efforts demanded of ordinary people,” according to the paper.
Robert Baltus, COO of the European Business Aviation Association, told Corporate Jet Investor, “It is very unfortunate that the minister goes for the easiest route by blaming CEOs that are keeping France and the EU afloat. (Business aviation is) the segment of the aviation industry that allows economies to shine and remote regions to be connected, without mentioning all the medical and emergency operations that are performed thanks to business aircraft.”
He added, “Bullying the smallest segment of the aviation sector representing 0.04% of the global CO2 emission because it’s an easy target and the crowd demands a sacrifice won’t solve anything…On the contrary, it will further deteriorate European economies and the lives of the citizens we serve and employ.”
In a separate statement, Baltus added, “If the Minister was serious about improving aviation’s footprint, he would focus his attention on introducing the Single European Sky initiative that will reduce all aviation emissions in Europe by 10%. However, France has been the member state primarily stalling the introduction of this initiative for nearly 20 years as the French ministers are afraid of the French unions. Let’s just reflect on that. Up to 10% of CO2 generated by all flights in Europe over the last 20 years has been wasted fuel as this minister, and his predecessors have not been willing and able to make easy necessary changes that are available by the introduction of SES.”
Private aviation in Europe accounts for about $87 billion in annual economic activity and supports over 400,000 jobs, according to EBAA.
According to WingX, French private jet flight activity in 2022 is running ahead of pre-Covid levels. So far this year, long-haul flights from the United Arab Emirates are up 63% compared to 2019, with U.S. flights up 18%. Overall, private jet flights are 13% above pre-pandemic totals.
One hotelier said discouraging private jet arrivals doesn’t make sense. “Over half our revenues come from guests who stay in our suites. They drink at our bars. They eat in our restaurants. They are the ones who take spa treatments. We cannot survive on EasyJet and RyanAir.”