Aircraft: Best of the Best Flight Services: NetJets

  • Fluto Shinzawa

Kevin Russell, senior vice president of Executive Jet, travels with two cell phones, a BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, and a laptop. In his office, he has a PC and videoconferencing capabilities. Despite all his communication options, Russell says there is no substitute for a handshake and an in-person meeting. “The most effective tool I have in our business is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a client or prospect,” Russell says. “It builds trust, confidence, and allows you to present your full story. You build business relationships that can last for a lifetime.”

For Russell and his colleagues, a NetJets plane is the business tool of choice. Executive Jet is the parent company of NetJets, the fractional ownership program that was launched in 1986. This year, NetJets introduced the Cessna Citation Encore and Cessna Citation Excel, two seven-passenger jets, to its U.S. fleet. By the end of this year, NetJets will manage and operate 550 jets and 13 choices of aircraft. Passengers can purchase as little as a 1/16th interest, or 50 hours a year, and can fly their planes with only four hours’ notice.

What sets NetJets apart from other fractional ownership programs, says Russell, is the company’s commitment to safety. According to Russell, NetJets pilots receive 23 days of flight training each year—twice the amount that commercial pilots undergo annually. NetJets also hires Air Security International, a Houston-based company that specializes in aviation security, to provide reports on a traveler’s overseas destination. If you’re flying to a country with political instability, for example, Air Security International will give you and your crew a thorough briefing.

“It is very, very expensive to do some of the things we do,” Russell says. “Most aviation companies can’t afford the things we do to ensure the safety of our passengers. They can’t afford to train their pilots 23 days a year. Most aviation companies can’t afford to engage the services of an international security firm and do security checks on every single flight.”

Safety, speed, and comfort are NetJets’ objectives, and the Boeing Business Jet, the largest aircraft in the company’s fleet, achieves all three. A BBJ recently shuttled Russell, Executive Jet Chairman and CEO Richard Santulli, and Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway company owns Executive Jet, on a three-day overseas business trip. Buffett boarded the BBJ in Omaha, Neb., and the plane picked up Russell and Santulli in New York. The BBJ’s passengers traveled to meetings in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Cologne, Geneva, and Milan, taking advantage of the plane’s executive suite, bathrooms, and two full-size showers.

On the final day, the BBJ left Milan at 1:30 am, dropping Russell and Santulli off in New York for work that morning. “We came back to the U.S. refreshed, showered, dressed, and ready to do business the next day,” Russell says. “We couldn’t do that flying commercially, or even privately, in any other aircraft in the world.”

NetJets, 732.326.3700 or 877.638.5387, www.netjets.com

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