Here's how Blade is making it easier for travelers overseas return home
The U.S. has implemented a number of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak and airlines have responded with major flight suspensions. American Airlines suspended all but three long-haul routes through at least May, Delta slashed its transatlantic network to just five routes and United cut systemwide capacity by half. Some major airports, such as Kuwait International Airport (KWI), have completely shut down, suspending all commercial flights.
Americans have been left scrambling to book flights home, and having been returning to utter chaos. Since March 14, anyone flying into the United States has been restricted to a small handful of international gateway airports for “enhanced entry screening,” and have been facing multi-hour backups to clear customs and immigration.
One way some travelers have gotten around the travel restrictions and packed airports is by turning to private jets. Private-jet operators have seen a dramatic rise in demand over the past few weeks as travelers need to evacuate from affected areas and seek ways to avoid crowded commercial airport terminals. While flying private can cost you a pretty penny, some charter companies are trying to make it at least a little more affordable during these difficult times.
On-demand helicopter, seaplane, and private-jet booking service Blade introduced on Monday its International Jet Charter Return Home Program. With this program, Blade will offer charter availability for its entire accessible fleet of long-range jets at operating cost to anyone in need of transportation from an international location back to the U.S. These flights can be shared, either through coordination by Blade or by flyers themselves.
While you must contact Blade for quotes, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Patrick Albano told us that the company can offer a super-midsized jet charter (seating up to nine passengers) from St. Maarten to New York for $21,200 one-way, compared to the usual $34,000. The company says it has also received a lot of interest in seaplane charters from the Caribbean, where travelers are looking to take a short hop back to the U.S., landing in Miami. Those aircraft have been made available for $4,400 while they typically go for upwards of $5,800. "We're able to deliver on these requests thanks to our operator partners and our team of international experts who know how to match up the right aircraft for the mission," Albano said.
Commercial airlines introduced fare caps in select markets, but those are only valid for coach travel and only through March 24. The fare caps also don't help with flights selling out.
Aside from having a more comfortable in-flight experience, flying private will allow you to bypass packed customs halls, which could be a health hazard themselves. The wait at Chicago O'Hare (ORD) is said to have reached six hours just to get through baggage claim over the weekend. Plus, you'll be able to fly directly to your home cities, as opposed to one of the designated gateway airports.
Read our complete guide to traveling during the outbreak here.
When you use Blade promo code BRIANF&F you and TPG will each earn $50 in Blade credits.
Additional resources for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak:
- A letter to our readers about coronavirus from The Points Guy founder and CEO Brian Kelly
- Tips for booking flights home from Europe now, airlines introduced fare caps
- Which airlines are offering the most flexibility for travelers affected by the coronavirus
- These are the global coronavirus travel restrictions by country
- TSA allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer through security