Coronavirus: Wealthy seek immunity with private planes, chefs

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The wealthy are reserving private planes and dinners in an attempt to protect themselves against the coronavirus pandemic, according to luxury service providers.

Dubai-based Jetex, an aviation services company that caters to elite clientele, has witnessed an increased demand for charter services, including people who do not normally fly private, since coronavirus cases were first reported in the United Arab Emirates in late January.


In the past month “wealthy families have been chartering private jets to reduce the risk of exposing their families to the virus by avoiding commercial flights and busy airports,” Jetex Founder & CEO Adel Mardini told Al Arabiya English.

A crew member is seen inside Falcon 2000S jet in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 11, 2015. (AFP)
A crew member is seen inside Falcon 2000S jet in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 11, 2015. (AFP)

Demand for private jet flights increased by more than 20 percent in February, compared to the same period last year, he said. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global health emergency on January 30, and a pandemic on Wednesday.

“For individuals and companies willing to pay a bit extra, it is a way to minimize the risk of infection,” Mardini said.

An average one-way private flight between Dubai and London, a popular route, costs between $60,000 to $80,000, according to Jetex.

Some private jet providers are seeing the situation as a business opportunity, like Florida-based Southern Jet, whose limited test marketing email was sent with the tag line: “Avoid coronavirus by flying private … Request a quote today!”

The company reported an uptick in requests following the promotion, according to the New York Times.

Empty chairs and tables are lined up outside a restaurant in Venice, Italy on March 9, 2020. (AP)
Empty chairs and tables are lined up outside a restaurant in Venice, Italy on March 9, 2020. (AP)

Another preventative measure being taken by those who can afford it is requesting private rooms at restaurants.

Five-star resort The Atlantis in Dubai told Al Arabiya English some guests have been requesting private dining experiences due to the coronavirus, and that The Atlantis was accommodating their requests.

Public health officials around the world have recommended social distancing to combat the outbreak. Coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person, according to the CDC, especially between people who are within about six feet of each other.

Bookings at exclusive eateries in some countries have gone up, such as London’s Michelin-starred French restaurant Alain Ducasse, “where there’s an unusually large amount of space between tables,” according to Sky News.

However, in other countries with reported cases such as Italy, Kuwait and Lebanon, neither reservations nor special requests can be made as the governments have ordered the closure of all restaurants.

The virus has infected more than 126,100 people globally, and killed at least 4,600, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements on Thursday.

Meanwhile business has increased for American company Private Chefs as the coronavirus spread increases in the US.

“A lot of clients that used to only have part-time chefs are now bringing them in full-time and having them also stock the fridge for the days the chef is off,” said CEO of Private Chefs Christian Paier in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“A lot of wealthy people that used to only hire Private Chefs for their summer estates are now bringing them on full-time.”

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