The British Royal family is about as well-publicized as a family can be. Like them or not, their movements and decisions are followed the world over. For members of the Royal family, traveling abroad is an important part of life, especially on Commonwealth visits in the line of duty. Having such high-profile members of society traveling around the globe, it makes one wonder how they travel by air – especially compared to the average Joe. Simple Flying has taken a look at how the Royal family flies, from specially designed RAF aircraft to commercial budget trips.
The Royal family is able to charter commercial aircraft where required. The Queen, for example, has used chartered British Airways planes, such as the Boeing-777, for official visits. In fact, the Queen will always make use of a chartered aircraft, including the use of the RAF’s Voyager aircraft. This specially converted Airbus A330 is available to the royal family at a cost of around £2,000 per hour. It has been fitted with 58 business seats and is also available to government ministers.
As the flagship carrier of the United Kingdom, British Airways aircraft are preferred when the decision is made to charter a commercial plane for royal travel arrangements. Decisions on whether to do this or to use the RAF will depend on the assessment made by the team organizing the travel, in conjunction with security staff. Aircraft will also be chartered to allow for easier access to some of the more isolated Commonwealth countries, such as islands in the Caribbean, and South Sea countries like Fiji.
Royal Air Force
The Royal family may also call on the RAF’s specially designated royal squadron – No.32 Squadron – which merged with the Queen’s Flight in 1995. It operates BAe 146 aircraft, as well as two Westland Wessex helicopters in a primarily military logistical and communications support capacity. VIP transport may be available if aircraft are not needed for military purposes, and would mainly be used in short-range flights. Besides the royal family, 32 Squadron also offers special transport for government officials.
Members of the Royal family also use commercial airline travel on regularly scheduled flights. A decision on the viability of such travel is usually made with consideration given to security, logistics, and the nature of the business undertaken by royals. Although the use of private jets may be allowed, it is usually restricted to official business trips.
Where the Royal family undertakes air travel for leisure, travel by scheduled commercial flight is seen as more appropriate. Prince William has flown with Ryanair to Scotland before, with Duchess Kate accompanying him on another flight from Norwich to Aberdeen with low-cost airline Flybe. British Airways, again, is also preferred for commercial travel abroad.
With a rise in awareness of the carbon footprint of air travel, the travel arrangements of those in the media spotlight are scrutinized even more than before. It appears as if public opinion demands that celebrities come down on their use of private and chartered aircraft.
For the Royal family, this is no different. This past summer has seen the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, slated for taking Sir Elton John’s private jet to Nice. Prince Harry defended his use of the private jet, stating that he mostly travels commercially and that in some cases he requires private travel arrangements, in light of security concerns for himself and his family. He also confirmed that he makes use of “carbon offsetting” to cancel out his carbon footprint.
Should the Royal family start to fly commercially on an exclusive basis? Or should their official positions entitle them to use whichever mode of transport is deemed most prudent?