Remember a time, way back in February, when Americans were doing anything they could to get out of China because of Covid-19? Now the situation is reversed. As the virus spreads across the U.S., and much of the national economy shuts down including the travel industry, wealthy Chinese college and high school kids are paying big bucks for seats on private jets to get them home.
Because of the disruptions in the travel industry, commercial flights from the U.S. to China would involve 60 hours of travel, making many layovers.
Jeff Gong, a lawyer in Shanghai, asked his daughter, a high school student in Wisconsin, if she wanted 180,000 yuan ($25,460) as pocket money or a ticket on a private flight home.
“My daughter begged me to get her back home … She said ‘No papa, I don’t want the money, I want to go home’.”
Covid-19 infections in the U.S. have topped 50,000 and are still rising, while infections in China have fallen to zero.
Annelies Garcia, commercial director for Private Fly, a global booking service for charter flights, said:
“(Education) agents and schools are the ones making contact on behalf of the Chinese families looking to group together to arrange a private charter, given the lack of airline flights.”
But even the window for chartered flights is closing fast, further elevating prices. Beijing has banned all chartered flights from overseas and Shanghai is expected to follow suit soon. Hong Kong and Macau have blocked transit flights.
U.S-based Air Charter Service can fly passengers from Los Angeles to Shanghai on a 14-seat Bombardier 6000 for 2.3 million yuan ($325,300), or about $23,000 for a spot.
It’s not clear why the students want to leave. On the face of it, fears about catching the virus could be the reason, but it could also be boredom. If you’re taking classes online anyway, why be in a location where most businesses are shut down and you can’t move about? Just hop on a private jet, fly home, take classes, and do as you please. It’s likely that Jeff Gong will cough up a little “pocket money” for his daughter once she’s back home.