Aircraft: Family Ties
Three years ago, travelers who did not want to purchase their own aircraft had only charter or fractional ownership as choices for private flight. Today, in response to the downturn in fractional ownership and the success of Marquis Jet Partners—the NetJets-affiliated program that requires clients to commit to as few as 25 flight hours per year—private flight companies are expanding their services to provide clients with as many options as possible. Next year, CitationShares will launch Vector, a program similar to Marquis’ that offers members 25 hours of flight in a CJ1, Bravo, or Excel aircraft.
Bombardier is going one step further: The Canadian corporation is offering virtually every flight alternative under one roof.
Services begin with chartering. Skyjet, a division of Bombardier, operates Premier Fleet Plus, a program that offers clients 25, 50, or 100 hours of charter flight per year. In October, Bombardier Flexjet, the fractional ownership brand, teamed with Delta AirElite to form Fleet Membership Select, a service through which clients can purchase a 25-hour block—similar to Marquis’ offering—in a Flexjet-operated aircraft. Private fliers seeking traditional fractional ownership can purchase Flexjet shares, while those who want to purchase their own planes can consider aircraft such as the Learjet 60 or Challenger 604, both Bombardier products. "The goal is to get [clients] in the family," says Skyjet General Manager Nicholas Houseman.
Premier Fleet Plus, the base program in Bombardier’s portfolio, generally serves first-time private fliers who are unsure of their aircraft needs. The 750 planes in the Premier Fleet Plus fleet, which range from a Learjet 31 to a Global Express, are managed by 75 nationwide charter operators. Bombardier vets each operator and has it submit to an annual on-site audit by a consulting firm such as Wyvern Consulting or Aviation Research Group/US (ARG/US).
Charter fliers may eventually graduate to Fleet Membership Select, the newly formed program with Delta AirElite. The 25-hour block provides access to any Learjet 31, Learjet 45, Learjet 60, or Challenger 604 in the 105-plane Flexjet fleet, and unused hours do not expire. "This gives you all the rights and privileges of fractional ownership without the commitment," says Delta AirElite President and CEO Mike Green.
Bombardier’s hope is that programs such as Premier Fleet Plus and Fleet Membership Select serve as introductions to private flight, and that clients from these programs someday become fractional or outright aircraft owners. "You capture them with charter," says Houseman. "Then, 10 years down the road, they might be ready to buy their first aircraft. We know what they need. We know they’ve been using 350 hours per year in a Lear 60, and we know they need to buy that aircraft."