People like us – how 10,000 Americans view business aviation


crowds with business aircraft on display at the Abu Dhabi Air Expo

The general public likes business aviation, but does not know much about it

Do you remember the criticism that the automakers received when they flew in private jets to ask for bailouts? Do you remember when President Obama attacked business jets tax breaks eight times in one speech?

As you are involved in business aviation, the odds are high that you do. But very few people outside the industry will remember either event.

Many in business aviation feel the industry has been under attack for the last few years. More than half of attendees at Corporate Jet Investor Miami in October 2016 believe that the public consider “business jets to be evil”. Some 64% of attendees at Corporate Jet Investor London in February 2017 said that business aviation has an image problem and 87% of attendees at Corporate Jet Investor Asia last week agreed.

One operator at Corporate Jet Investor Asia argued with the findings. He said: “We do not have an image problem. We have an awareness problem.”

He is absolutely right.

In the last few years we have polled more than 10,000 Americans and 4,000 individuals in other countries. Our research shows that 67% of the US public view business aviation positively. Some 65% of Americans also believe that business jets are predominantly used by business people.

But they know very little about the industry. In 2016 we asked 2,500 Americans to name one company associated with business aviation. Some 60% could not think of anything (and this is with Boeing included as an answer).

But awareness is improving.

We asked the same question this month and now 53% of Americans are aware of one brand. LearJet is still the best known company (thanks to 18.4% of Americans) with Boeing second and NetJets third.

The rise in awareness has partly been driven by new entrants trying to open up business aviation. New entrants like Surf Air, Wheels Up and Victor all featured this year. The election of America’s first jet owner as President also helped (Trump went up 1% as an answer). A few airports and MROs also featured – perhaps helped by NBAA’s No Plane No Gain inspired – community outreach.

The number of Americans who think they will fly on a private jet in the next 10 years is also rising – also driven by companies trying to open up business aviation.

In 2016, 20.1% of Americans thought they would fly on a business jet before 2026. In 2017 it rose to 22%. This feels high, but may not be completely unrealistic. The US Census Bureau says that the top 20% of US households earnt $117,000 in 2016. If we get a period of fast growth and more democratisation, a charter flight could be attainable (and many people outside the industry cannot tell the difference between a jet and a propellor aircraft).

Other countries are less bullish. Just 11.6% of people in Japan, 12.6% in the UK, and 14.7% in Germany think they will fly in the next decade.

Australians are more optimistic. Some 17.3% expect to fly in a business jet before 2027. Although, with the Royal Flying Doctors a key launch customer of the Pilatus PC-24 perhaps they are being pessimistic.