To remain competitive in the flight-services industry, companies have been updating and upgrading their fleets and expanding their offerings beyond fractional aircraft shares. Here we spotlight the most prominent flight-services providers and the new aircraft they have ordered, as well as the programs and services they have added or amended in recent months. We also include a directory of recommended fractional companies, jet card programs, and charter providers.
With the financial backing of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, NetJets remains the industry’s largest fractional-share provider—and its fleet continues to grow. In June, the company announced that it had ordered 425 new aircraft from jet makers Cessna and Bombardier. The value of the transaction totals $9.6 billion, making it the largest aircraft order in private-aviation history.
The massive transaction includes 125 firm orders: 75 Bombardier Challenger 300 super-midsize jets, 25 Challenger 605 large-cabin jets, and 25 of Cessna’s forthcoming Citation Latitude midsize jets. NetJets holds options to purchase a total of 300 more aircraft from both manufacturers. These planes, along with the 125 NetJets-branded Embraer Phenom 300 and 120 ultralong-range Bombardier Global jets that it ordered in 2010 and 2011, respectively, will form NetJets’ Signature Series of aircraft, which are scheduled to begin entering the company’s fractional fleet this year. NetJets’ current worldwide fleet comprises more than 700 planes across 13 aircraft models.
Through the Supplemental Lift Assurance program it announced in August, the company is also now making its fleet available to flight departments and whole-aircraft owners. This program grants those companies and individuals access to the NetJets fleet, should they require use of an aircraft on short notice because of unscheduled maintenance or other short-term issues affecting their own jet. In March, the company formed NetJets China Business Aviation Limited, a joint venture with a number of Chinese investors, to capitalize on the growing demand for private aviation in Asia. 877.356.5823, www.netjets.com
In the first half of 2012, the number of clients who had left other companies’ programs to join Flight Options’ fractional-ownership, jet-membership, and jet card programs was up almost 50 percent compared to last year. CEO Mike Silvestro attributes much of this success to his company’s rapidly expanding fleet, which comprises 100 aircraft, including the recently delivered Embraer Phenom 300 and Nextant 400XT, both highly fuel-efficient light jets. (Nextant Aerospace, which is owned by the same private investment firm as Flight Options, replaces the engines, avionics, and interiors of the Beechjet 400A and Hawker 400XP to create the Nextant 400XT.) "This category of airplane is very popular," says Silvestro. "We now have two jet models that do 2,000 nautical miles [2,300 land miles] with four people and operate for about 35 percent less than a typical aircraft in the midsize category."
Flight Options ordered 100 Phenom 300 jets in 2007 and has received 18 to date. The company’s Jet Membership Club participants have access to the Phenom 300s, and Flight Options plans to offer a similar program for the Nextant 400XT. Customers join the program by paying a one-time up-front fee that guarantees a base hourly rate during the three-year membership period and gives members use of the aircraft in 75- or 150-hour blocks. 877.703.2348, www.flightoptions.com
Clients of Bombardier-owned Flexjet, which has the fractional industry’s youngest fleet (average aircraft age is approximately 5 years), will soon have access to three new jet models: the forthcoming Bombardier Learjet 70, 75, and 85 (see "Standbys and Arrivals," page 48). Flexjet is also in the process of renovating many of its aircraft’s interiors. All of its new aircraft will feature interiors made specially for Flexjet.
"We’re currently involved in a fleet renewal that’s been going on since last year and will go on every year for the foreseeable future," says company president Fred Reid. Flexjet is the first fractional company to offer access to the light-category Learjet 70 and will be the launch customer for the midsize Learjet 85; the planes are expected to enter service in 2013. The current Flexjet fleet is more than 80 aircraft strong and ranges from the Learjet 40XR light jet to the large-cabin, long-range Bombardier Challenger 605.
In addition to fractional ownership, Flexjet’s programs include aircraft management, on-demand charter, and jet cards. The company recently restructured its Flexjet 25 Jet Card program (operated by U.S. air carrier Jet Solutions). It has always given travelers access to multiple aircraft and the option to select their usage based on calendar days or flight hours, but the program now also includes a debit option that involves an initial deposit of $100,000 from which flight costs are deducted. 800.353.9538, www.flexjet.com
Of all the flight-services providers, Cessna-owned CitationAir underwent perhaps the most significant restructuring during the recession. Those changes culminated with the company’s announcement that it was discontinuing its fractional-ownership program (although it will service all existing contracts through their expiration) and shifting its focus to its jet card, charter, and aircraft management and sales services. Now CitationAir is planning to remove jet cards from its offerings. The company says that its primary objective is selling aircraft and that it will make new programs available in the coming months.
The CitationAir fleet remains one of the best in the business. It consists of approximately 70 Cessna-built aircraft, including the Citation CJ3, XLS, Sovereign, and X, the latter of which it added in 2011. The company continues to offer top-notch aircraft sales and management services, and its Corporate Solutions on-demand charter program remains an industry leader in terms of service, safety, and reliability. 877.692.4828, www.citationair.com
Company Avjet Services On-demand charter, aircraft management, and aircraft sales and leasing Aircraft Bombardier Global Express, Boeing BBJ, and various Gulfstream models Fleet 36 owned or managed aircraft Based Los Angeles Contact 800.342.8538, www.avjet.com
Company CitationAir by Cessna Services On-demand charter and aircraft management Aircraft Cessna Citation CJ3, XLS, Sovereign, and X jets Fleet Approximately 70 owned or operated aircraft Based Greenwich, Conn. Contact 877.692.4828, www.citationair.com
Company Clay Lacy Aviation Services On-demand charter, aircraft management and maintenance, and two full-service FBOs: one in Seattle and one in Van Nuys, Calif. Aircraft Light to ultralong-range jets Fleet 60 owned or operated aircraft Based Van Nuys, Calif. Contact 800.423.2904, www.claylacy.com
Company Elite Aviation Services On-demand charter, aircraft sales and management, and a network of FBOs Aircraft Turboprops and helicopters to heavy jets Fleet 11 managed aircraft Based Van Nuys, Calif. Contact 888.334.7777, www.eliteaviation.com
Company Executive Jet Management (a NetJets subsidiary) Services On-demand charter and aircraft management Aircraft Turboprops and helicopters to light and ultralong-range jets Fleet Over 190 operated aircraft Based Cincinnati, Ohio Contact 877.356.5387, www.executivejetmanagement.com
Company Gama Aviation Services On-demand charter and aircraft management and sales Aircraft Light to ultralong-range jets and a Bell 407 helicopter Fleet 42 owned or operated aircraft Based Bridgeport, Conn. Contact 800.468.1110, www.gamagroupusa.com
Company Hop-a-Jet Worldwide Jet Charter Services On-demand charter and aircraft management Aircraft Various Bombardier Learjet and Challenger models Fleet 11 leased, owned, or operated aircraft Based Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Contact 800.556.6633, www.hopajet.com
Company Jet Aviation Services On-demand charter, aircraft maintenance, completions, and management, and an international network of FBOs Aircraft Light to ultralong-range jets Fleet More than 200 managed and operated aircraft worldwide Based Teterboro, N.J. (U.S. headquarters) Contact 800.736.8538, www.jetaviation.com
Company Jet Edge International Services On-demand charter Aircraft Hawker 800XP, Bombardier Challenger 300, Cessna Citation X, and various Gulfstream models Fleet Approximately 70 operated aircraft Based Van Nuys, Calif. Contact 877.550.3343, www.flyjetedge.com
Company Jet Solutions Services On-demand charter, jet card programs, and whole-aircraft management Aircraft Various Bombardier Learjet and Challenger models Fleet Approximately 85 owned or operated aircraft Based Richardson, Texas Contact 214.570.4100, www.jetsolutions.com
Company JetSuite Services On-demand and membership-based charter Aircraft Embraer Phenom 100 Fleet 13 owned aircraft Based Irvine, Calif. Contact 866.779.7770, www.jetsuite.com
Company Key Air Services On-demand charter, aircraft management, and a full-service FBO Aircraft Light to ultralong-range jets Fleet 25 operated aircraft Based Oxford, Conn. Contact 888.539.2471, www.keyair.com
Company Mayo Aviation Services On-demand charter, aircraft management and maintenance, and air ambulance Aircraft Turboprops to large jets Fleet 17 owned or operated aircraft Based Denver Contact 303.790.9777, www.mayoaviation.com
Company Meridian Services On-demand charter, aircraft management and maintenance, and an FBO Aircraft Light to ultralong-range jets Fleet 21 owned or managed aircraft Based Teterboro, N.J. Contact 201.288.5040, www.meridian.aero
Company Pegasus Elite Aviation Services On-demand charter and aircraft management and sales Aircraft Gulfstream GIV Fleet 8 operated aircraft Based Van Nuys, Calif. Contact 818.742.6666, www.pegjet.com
Company Pentastar Aviation Services On-demand charter; aircraft management, sales, and maintenance; and two FBOs: one in Detroit and one in Van Nuys, Calif. Aircraft Light to ultralong-range jets Fleet 20 operated aircraft
Based Detroit Contact 800.662.9612, www.pentastaraviation.com
Company VistaJet Services Charter membership and on-demand charter for flights throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa Aircraft Bombardier Learjet 60XR, Challenger 605, Challenger 850, and Global 6000 Fleet More than 30 owned aircraft Based Baar, Switzerland Contact +44.207.0605.700, www.vistajet.com
Company XOJet Services On-demand charter and charter membership programs Aircraft Bombardier Challenger 300, Cessna Citation X, Hawker 800XP Fleet 47 owned aircraft Based Brisbane, Calif. Contact 877.599.6538, www.xojet.com
Program Avantair Edge Card Offered by Avantair Aircraft Avantair’s fleet of Piaggio Aero P.180 Avanti jet-powered turboprops Description Customers purchase access to the Avantair fleet in 15-, 25-, and 50-hour increments Contact 877.289.7180, www.avantair.com
Program Delta Private Jets Card Offered by Delta Private Jets Aircraft Access to Delta Private Jets fleet and discounts on Delta Air Lines first class Description Customers purchase access to a concierge team for booking private and commercial travel Contact 877.541.3548, www.deltaprivatejets.com
Program Flexjet 25 Jet Card Offered by Flexjet (operated by U.S. air carrier Jet Solutions) Aircraft Learjet 40XR, 45XR, and 60XR; Challenger 300 and 604 Description Customers either purchase access to specific aircraft and select number of calendar days and flight hours (in 25-, 30-, and 35-hour increments) or make initial deposit of $100,000 and deduct flight costs from balance Contact 866.473.0025, www.flexjet25.com
Program Getaway, Voyager, and VLJ cards Offered by Magellan Jets Aircraft Various models from Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna, Bombardier, Gulfstream, and Dassault Falcon (Getaway/Voyager); or Eclipse 550 (VLJ) Description Customers purchase jet-specific flight hours in 25-hour increments (Getaway) or 10-hour increments (VLJ), or purchase the $250,000 Voyager card, which grants aircraft flexibility, access to a concierge, and other benefits Contact 877.550.5387, www.magellanjets.com
Program JetPASS Select Jet Card Offered by Flight Options Aircraft Hawker 400XP and 800XP, Citation X, Legacy 600 Description Customers purchase access to Flight Options aircraft in 25-hour increments Contact 877.703.2348, www.flightoptions.com
Program Marquis Jet Card Offered by NetJets Aircraft NetJets fleet Description Customers purchase access to NetJets aircraft in 25-hour increments Contact 877.356.5823, www.netjets.com
Program PlaneClear Debit Card Offered by PlaneClear Aircraft Various models ranging from turboprops to heavy jets Description Customers make a minimum deposit of $100,000, which guarantees the better of two fixed-pricing options determined on a trip-by-trip basis Contact 877.359.1101, www.flyplaneclear.com
Program Sentient Jet Card and 25-Hour Card Offered by Sentient Jet Aircraft Jets of various makes offered by category and age class Description Customers purchase $150,000 initial deposit, which provides access to aircraft at hourly rates locked in for two years, or access to 25 hours of flight time with hourly and fuel rates locked in for 12 months from the date of purchase Contact 866.602.0051, www.sentient.com/jet-cards
Company Avantair Services Fractional ownership, Axis Lease Program, and Edge Card Aircraft Piaggio Aero P.180 Avanti Contact 877.289.7180, www.avantair.com
Company Executive AirShare Services Fractional ownership, lease options, aircraft management, and equity-accruing jet card program Aircraft Super King Air 350; Phenom 300 and 100 Contact 866.946.4900, www.execairshare.com
Company Flexjet Services Fractional ownership, whole-aircraft management and ownership, on-demand charter brokerage, and access to the Flexjet 25 Jet Card program (operated by U.S. air carrier Jet Solutions) Aircraft Various Bombardier Learjet and Challenger models Contact 800.353.9538, www.flexjet.com
Company Flight Options Services Fractional ownership, Jet Membership Club, and JetPASS Select Jet Card Aircraft Hawker 400XP, Nextant 400XT, Phenom 300, Hawker 800XP, Citation X, Legacy 600 Contact 877.703.2348, www.flightoptions.com
Company NetJets Services Fractional ownership, jet cards, leases, aircraft management, on-demand charter, and value-added programs Aircraft Various Cessna, Hawker, Gulfstream, and Dassault Falcon models, with new jets on order from Bombardier, Cessna, and Embraer Contact 877.356.5823, www.netjets.com
Company PlaneSense Services Fractional ownership Aircraft Pilatus PC-12 Contact 866.214.1212, www.planesense.com