Best of the Best 2008: Flight Services: CitationShares

Since 1911, when Kansas farmer Clyde Cessna built a wood-and-fabric airplane and flew it from the Mississippi River to the Rockies—an aviation first—the company that he founded has built some of the world’s most popular private planes. The Citations, a series of light and midsize business jets, have become the most favored Cessnas among upscale buyers. In recent years, the Wichita-based Cessna Aircraft Co. has unveiled a host of new Citations, including the CJ4 business jet; the large-body, intercontinental Citation Columbus; and the Citation XLS+, an honoree in this year’s Best of the Best (see page 410).

Through its CitationShares division, Cessna makes fractional shares available for four Citations: the six-passenger CJ3, the seven-passenger Bravo, the nine-passenger XLS, and the nine-?passenger Sovereign. The Sovereign, which first reached customers in 2004, has proved especially popular, thanks largely to its ability to make a New York–to–California run without refueling. CitationShares also offers the Vector JetCard, which allows you to purchase flight time in any of these planes in increments as small as one hour. Owners of both fractional shares and JetCards have access to the company’s entire fleet of about 90 aircraft, the fourth-largest fleet in the fractional industry.

In a business where options abound, fractional contracts typically fill dozens of pages, and extra costs can sneak up on users without much warning, CitationShares keeps its fractional offering relatively simple. Its Citelines program features a brief contract and combines all management and operating expenses for a year (including fuel) into a discounted single payment or 12 monthly ones. Purchase options range from a one-sixteenth share, corresponding to 50 flight hours per year, to a one-half share, corresponding to 400 hours. Prices begin at about $480,000 for a one-sixteenth share of a Citation CJ3. You can reduce operating costs by not traveling on Christmas, Easter, or other peak flying days. The company offers days-per-year programs—365, 350, 335, and 320—in which operating costs drop as the number of available days declines.

The Vector JetCard program, unlike most hourly card options, does not impose a minimum number of hours you must fly each year. Rather, you can start with a one-hour card and move up in hourly increments from there. Costs range from about $6,100 per hour for a CJ3 to about $9,500 per hour for a Sovereign. Under the company’s Preferred Positioning program, prices drop if you pick up your jet in a place where another owner has just dropped it off; the provider avoids the cost of repositioning the plane and passes some of the savings on to you. CitationShares also offers combination cards that give you access to two of its four jet types. And if you are a Citelines customer who has reached the maximum number of hours that your fractional share allows you to fly in a year, you can take advantage of a Value Plus option through which you can add extra time to the arrangement, much as if you were purchasing JetCard hours.

CitationShares operates in the continental United States, Bermuda, southern Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It asks for eight hours of notice from clients for flights in the continental United States and 24 hours for international flights and trips on peak flying days.

CitationShares, 203.861.9667, www.citationshares.com

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