Last month, the US government scrambled to help American citizens evacuate China amid the COVID-19 scourge. Now, as Middle Kingdom cases die down and US infections ramp up, wealthy Chinese students are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to escape the United States via private jet.
Shanghai lawyer Jeff Song tells Reuters that he had asked his daughter, a Wisconsin high school student, if she preferred $25,460 or a ticket on a private plane out of the country. “No papa, I don’t want the money, I want to go home,” was the frightened girl’s response.
To help worried Chinese expatriates get out of dodge, the US-based Air Charter Service is arranging fleets of private jets that’ll fly Chinese nationals home for up to $23,000 on a flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai, according to Air Charter PR manager Glenn Phillips. He says that the price tag varies “greatly depending on the positioning of the aircraft on the dates and time requested, and the exact route.”
Richard Zaher, CEO of Paramount Business Jets, tells AFP that inquiries “have gone through the roof” with flight reservations up approximately 20 to 25 percent.
Unfortunately, returning home via commercial aircraft is proving increasingly difficult. Beijing, China, recently rerouted overseas flights after a record jump in diagnoses of the coronavirus in Chinese citizens returning home from the US and Europe. Aviation database Variflight reported that on Tuesday, 3,102 out of 3,800 planned commercial flights to and from China were scrapped over the coronavirus concerns.
To fly under the Chinese travel authorities’ radar, private plane wingmen are obtaining aircraft from other countries to fly the US-China routes, or arranging transfers in Japan, Reuters reports. Annelies Garcia, commercial director for private jet booking firm PrivateFly, tells the Independent that American educators are even helping Chinese students “looking to group together to arrange a private charter.”
It’s out-of-the-pandemic-frying-pan and into the fire for Chinese disease refugees, who just this past February, were struggling to evacuate China amid nationwide travel restrictions.
Multiple states across the US have enacted quarantines as American cases surpass 60,000, according to Worldmeter. China conversely lifted the lockdown in the pandemic’s origin point of Wuhan, as new infections fell to zero.