Is It Safe For Royals And Presidents To Fly Commercially?

The method of transport taken by royals and presidents has come under the spotlight in recent weeks, as it has emerged that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan took four private jet flights in 11 days, while heir to the throne William and his family opted for a low cost trip on Flybe. Supporters of Harry and Meghan have claimed it’s too dangerous for important people to fly commercially; but is that really true?

Air Force One
Should heads of state and other important people fly on commercial planes? Photo: US Army

Wills and Kate pick Flybe

In a move that’s been lauded as being ‘down to earth’, heir to the throne Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge (or Kate as she’s better known) shunned the life of luxury and took off on their summer holidays on budget airline Flybe.

Flybe had the honor of taking the Duke and Duchess on their holiday. Photo: Flybe

Traveling from Norwich International to Aberdeen to spend the bank holiday weekend with proud great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the couple carried their own bags, wrangled their own kids and, frankly, took a summer vacation in the same way we all do.

Other passengers on the flight noted that there was additional security on board, and that the family was met by a pair of black Range Rovers on arrival in Scotland. But, other than that, it was your pretty average beginning to a family summer break.

While flying a £73 Flybe service to Scotland is nothing to write home about, it bears a stark contrast to the way certain other royals vaycayed this summer.

Harry and Megs go private

Prince Harry’s summer started well, with the Duke of Sussex attending a top secret Google event in Sicily to give a barefoot lecture about climate change. In attendance were dozens of A-listers including Stella McCartney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry. The only problem was, most of these millionaires arrived on private jets.

Those who didn’t arrive via personal plane had pulled up to the coast on their luxury superyachts. In order to get from the yacht to the event each day, they were ferried in gas-guzzling Maseratis, according to the Sun. Strange behavior for people so concerned about climate change, huh.

Anyway, that’s by the by. The issue here is that, since the event, Harry and Meghan have come under fire for taking their own private jet flights for their vacations. The couple, with their son Archie, boarded a 12 seater Cessna to Ibiza and back, and also to Nice and back for their summer break. Some have called this somewhat hypocritical following the pairs’ outspoken concern for the environment.

British celebrity Jameela Jamil shot to the defense of Meghan, pulling the race card out of thin air for a start. She then went on to claim it would be unsafe for the general public if royals and presidents flew on commercial jets. Even Sir Elton John has come out and said the private jet was booked for their ‘safety’. So how come it was OK for William and Kate?

How do important folks travel?

Whether you get to fly in your very own Cessna or hop on a commercial jet like the rest of the world seems to depend not only on who you are, but also on what your trip is all about. When you’re a royal and you’re off on a leisure trip, chances are there will be no private jet laid on.

According to Hello! William and Kate have frequently been spotted on British Airways, which is not entirely surprising seeing as Kates parents both worked for the UK flag carrier. The Prince brothers took a trip together to Memphis with American Airlines in 2014, and William has even been known to hop on a Ryanair flight from time to time.

Wills has even graced the yellow-and-blue interior of a Ryanair plane. Photo: Ryanair

However, when it’s a state visit, things can be different. Traveling as a representative of the British government can often mean a heightened requirement for security. Sure, you’re the same person, but when on official business, it’s a higher priority for the nation to keep you safe. As such, senior royals on trips to promote state interests will often travel on a chartered private jet.

President Donald J. Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base, en route Dover, Delaware.
Donald prefers to fly private. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Politicians, such as Donald Trump, always travel in private. Air Force One is one of the perks of being the US president. Other heads of state have even grander modes of transport, such as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, who has a lavishly appointed Boeing 747 as his private jet. Japan, Canada, Australia and Morocco also sport private jets for their leaders, ranging from behemoth 747s to somewhat less ostentatious A330s and an A310.

Would they put us at risk?

Of course not! To suggest that having a royal, a politician or a celebrity on a plane would risk the lives of the general public is nothing short of ridiculous. In fact, there have been numerous occasions when things have gone wrong and such dignitaries have ended up on a commercial flight with the rest of us.

Germany's Air Force One
Germany’s Air Force One Photo: Thomas Liebenberg via Wikimedia

Issues with her super secure A340 ‘Konrad Adenauer’ saw Angela Merkel switched onto an Iberia A330 to get to last year’s G20 summit. According to Reuters, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was forced to fly home on a commercial flight last month after her scheduled plane broke down in Australia. And, as part of an austerity drive in Pakistan, the Tribune reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan flew to Washington by Qatar Airways rather than a chartered flight.

Did any die? Were there kidnappings? Did the whole world fall apart? Of course not. In fact, in the current climate of concern for the environment, people such as the royal family would do well to take more commercial flights to show they can walk the walk just as well as the next man.

What do you think? Were Harry and Meghan justifiably lambasted for their private jet holidays, or were they indeed just trying to keep us all safe?