Billionaires use ‘Uber for private jets’ to avoid climate shaming

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It’s awkward flying private.

The ultra-wealthy and corporations are increasingly turning to Uber-like private jet sharing companies to maintain their climate credibility and avoid being “flight shamed” — while still avoiding the masses on commercial flights.

Private jet charter companies say they are scrambling to meet demand even as commercial air traffic remains 20 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Wheels Up, a membership-based aviation company that lets customers book private flights through a smartphone app, told the outlet that demand is so high they are now telling new members they need to book some 90 days in advance.

Warren Buffett-backed firm NetJets, which sells timeshare-like shares of private jets, has reportedly stopped new sales altogether.

Both COVID-19 and environmental concerns have fueled the demand for private jet sharing.
Both COVID-19 and environmental concerns have fueled the demand for private jet sharing.
ZUMAPRESS.com

And while the COVID-19 pandemic has played a part in pushing moneyed travelers towards private flights due to health concerns, Wheels Up president Vinayak Hegde told the Journal that corporations are increasingly signing up to their service in response to environmental demands.

“We definitely see companies that don’t want their names on the tail,” Hegde said.

Since planes from companies like Wheels Up and NetJets are owned by third parties, individuals and companies who want to uphold a climate-conscious image can use them to hide their trips from nosy activists and politicians.

Private jet companies are seeing a boom in business.
Multiple private jet companies are seeing a boom in business.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rich people have long caught flak for flying private. But as billionaires like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos call louder for global action on climate change, their taste for private jets leaves a bad taste.

The average trip on a Gulfstream G650 private jet reportedly emits nearly 10 times as much carbon per hour per passenger as a Boeing 787, the Journal noted.

Even if the flight is completely full, the carbon cost per passenger is still four times as high as a 787.

Exterior of private jet owned by Blade.
Private jet traffic has soared during the pandemic despite commercial flights seeing fewer patrons.

But it’s not just environmental activists who are up in arms about private jets.

Shareholders, who view them as an unnecessary money pit, have pushed executives at large companies such as General Electric and JC Penny to cut costs in recent years by selling their company planes off, the paper said.

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